Boise State matches school record win streak, becomes only unbeaten in Mountain West play

·5 min read

Fans crowded near the corner of the court at ExtraMile Arena where Abu Kigab stood, asking for autographs and posing for pictures.

Then someone shouted out: “Hey Abu, are you going to take us to the tournament?”

After watching the Broncos gut out a school record-tying 13th straight win — 65-62 over Wyoming on Tuesday night — an NCAA Tournament appearance isn’t as far-fetched as it might have seemed following a 3-4 start.

Boise State coach Leon Rice, however, was ready for no such discussion.

“You start doing that, that’s a mistake,” Rice said. “You start looking back or looking forward, no, we’ve got a heck of a Fresno game coming Friday. They’re playing great. They’re tough. They’re a great defensive team. They have some terrific players. They’re playing really good, so that’s all we care about.

“There will be no talk with my players on that. There will be no talk in our coaching staff. We just don’t do that. It’s not appropriate.”

Rice’s in-the-moment-approach this season has been key to the Broncos’ run, and it was important in the final minutes of their win over the Cowboys (15-3, 4-1). Tuesday’s victory left the Broncos (16-4, 7-0) as the only unbeaten team remaining in Mountain West play.

In front of a season-high 8,292 fans, Wyoming took a 60-58 lead courtesy of a four-point play from Drake Jeffries with 2:51 left. But it was the Kigab show the rest of the way.

The fifth-year senior asserted himself on both ends of the floor in the final minutes, tying the score with a baby hook in the key and then drawing a charge with the Broncos in the bonus. Kigab went to the line for a 1-and-1 opportunity and sank both free throws for a 62-60 lead. And he went to the line twice more when fouled on defensive boards, converting 3-of-4 to seal the win. Kigab finished with a team-leading 18 points to go with five assists, two rebounds and one steal.

He also stymied Wyoming’s game-tying 3-point attempt in the closing seconds.

“Huge. The charge was a big, big play and that was a great job. He just held his ground, took it on the chest and that was a legit, great play,” Rice said. “I mean, he made big play after big play down the stretch. He is a great second-half player. The more tired everybody gets, the better Abu gets.”

The Broncos have been notoriously bad at free throws this season, ranking near the very bottom of Division I, but they made 13-of-18 (72.2%) in the victory over Wyoming, including Kigab’s 5-for-6 performance over the last 1:08.

“We’ve been in so many close games this year and we have such a tight roster,” Kigab said. “Those guys, all of them make winning plays, and they’ll do whatever it takes at the end of the game.”

Freshman forward Tyson Degenhart was the only other Bronco in double figures with 14 points, nine of which came in the second half. Degenhart also guarded 6-foot-9 Wyoming forward Graham Ike, the Mountain West’s leading scorer, for much of the second half while Boise State big man Mladen Armus sat on the bench with foul trouble.

Ike notched a game-best 19 points, but he did not score over the final 11:07.

“Man, he’s a beast. You should see him pushing weight in the weight room,” Kigab said of Degenhart. “I have full confidence in Deggie. We knew he was gonna do a great job on Ike, and he did. ... He deserves to have those moments, and he’s gonna be successful all the time.”

With Armus and Kigab in foul trouble, the Broncos put nine different players on the court, eight of which scored two points or more. Armus and Naje Smith checked in with eight points apiece, while Marcus Shaver Jr., Emmanuel Akot and Max Rice each added five points.

“We need to keep growing this bench, because the great teams I’ve been around, those bench guys can get you through some tough times,” Rice said.

The Broncos will be back on the road Friday for that rematch against Fresno State. Tipoff is scheduled for 9 p.m. Mountain time Friday at Save Mart Center in Fresno, California, and the game will be televised on Fox Sports 1. Boise State defeated Fresno State 65-55 on Dec. 28 in Boise to open conference play.

BOISE ST. 65, WYOMING 62

WYOMING (15-3, 4-1 MW): Ike 8-18 3-5 19, Oden 1-3 0-0 2, Jeffries 3-7 3-4 12, Maldonado 4-9 8-9 17, Wenzel 3-4 0-1 7, Reynolds 2-4 0-0 5, Thompson 0-0 0-0 0, Foster 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 21-45 14-19 62.

BOISE ST. (16-4, 7-0 MW): Armus 3-5 2-2 8, Degenhart 5-7 2-4 14, Kigab 6-12 5-6 18, Akot 2-9 0-0 5, Shaver 2-6 0-0 5, Rice 1-5 2-4 5, N.Smith 3-8 0-0 8, Milner 0-0 0-0 0, Kuzmanovic 0-0 2-2 2. Totals 22-52 13-18 65.

Halftime—Boise St. 30-24. 3-Point Goals—Wyoming 6-16 (Jeffries 3-6, Reynolds 1-2, Wenzel 1-2, Maldonado 1-3, Ike 0-1, Oden 0-2), Boise St. 8-25 (Degenhart 2-4, N.Smith 2-6, Akot 1-3, Shaver 1-3, Rice 1-4, Kigab 1-5). Fouled Out—Kigab. Rebounds—Wyoming 28 (Ike 9), Boise St. 25 (Armus, Rice, N.Smith 5). Assists—Wyoming 6 (Maldonado 4), Boise St. 10 (Kigab 5). Total Fouls—Wyoming 17, Boise St. 19. A—8,292 (12,480).

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