‘It was pretty special.’ Boise State reserves get chance to shine in win over E. Oregon

Tyson Degenhart, Mohamed Sylla and Lukas Milner were perfect from the field, Max Rice flirted with a triple-double, and the Boise State men’s basketball team did exactly what was expected against an NAIA team.

The Broncos cleared their bench and rolled past Eastern Oregon 90-54 on Tuesday at ExtraMile Arena as 12 Broncos in all logged playing time.

It was a special moment for one Bronco in particular.

“I’ve been working hard for this moment. I get in the gym every morning before practice and try to get better and get more opportunities,” Sylla said. “Tonight, it feels really good because since the season started, I haven’t scored, so for me to score my first bucket today as a Bronco, it was pretty special.”

Sylla, a reserve center who has appeared sparingly until Tuesday, finished 5-for-5 from the floor for 12 points in just over 9 minutes of action. He was one of 10 Broncos to score and one of four to reach double figures.

“These guys have been waiting a long time and they practice hard,” Boise State coach Leon Rice said. “They want to be out there playing. They want to be out there contributing. They want to be out there helping their teammates.

“Some guys haven’t got a chance yet, and some guys it’s been a long time since they’ve played, so they just needed to get out there and work through some stuff, and I thought they did a great job of doing that tonight.”

Eastern Oregon raced out to a 6-0 advantage and led the Broncos 17-15 with 10:26 to play in the first half. But a Chibuzo Agbo 3-pointer started a 20-2 Boise State run that resulted in a 35-19 lead that only expanded as the game went on.

The Broncos (7-2), who led 45-25 at halftime, opened the second half with their starters on the court, but quickly turned to their bench as their lead over the Mountaineers (5-3) expanded.

“I’ve said it a lot, really, the key to this team is the development of that bench,” Leon Rice said. “Who it’s gonna be, we’ll see. But there’s a part of me that thinks that it might be different guys in different situations, depending what we need. So they just have to keep grinding and keep getting better.”

Fifth-year senior Marcus Shaver Jr. sat out Tuesday’s game with an undisclosed injury. True freshman Jace Whiting started in his place, tallying seven points, two rebounds, one assist and one steal. Degenhart led all scorers with 19 points on a perfect 7-for-7 shooting performance and Max Rice notched 11 points, nine rebounds and seven assists.

Some of the biggest cheers of the night came for freshman forward Sadraque NgaNga, who scored nine straight points in a little more than a minute, including a 3-pointer and a pair of dunks. NgaNga finished with a season-high 13 points, six rebounds and two steals.

“This is something I have to own,” said NgaNga, who is originally from Luanda, Angola. “Every time they give me one minute or two minutes, I have to do my best and keep fighting.”

The Broncos now head to St. Louis, Missouri, to face Saint Louis (7-3). Tipoff is 6 p.m. Mountain time Saturday at Chaifetz Arena, and the game will be streamed on ESPN+. A radio broadcast of the game is available at KBOI 670 AM.

BOISE ST. 90, E. OREGON 54

Valdez 1-3 1-2 3, Huddleston 2-3 0-0 5, Jeske 3-5 0-0 7, Malatare 3-7 0-0 6, Orr 1-5 0-0 2, Afework 2-11 9-9 15, McGinnis 3-7 0-0 6, O’Harra 0-2 0-0 0, Dill 3-6 0-0 6, Lyday 1-6 0-0 2, Taylor 1-3 0-0 2. Totals 20-58 10-11 54.

Degenhart 7-7 2-5 19, N.Smith 2-7 0-0 6, Agbo 2-6 3-3 9, M.Rice 4-7 1-1 11, Whiting 3-7 0-0 7, Kuzmanovic 2-7 0-0 5, NgaNga 6-8 0-0 13, Young 0-0 0-0 0, Milner 2-2 0-0 4, Sylla 5-5 2-3 12, B.Smith 1-3 2-5 4, Winter 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 34-59 10-17 90.

Halftime—Boise St. 45-25. 3-Point Goals—E. Oregon 4-15 (Afework 2-6, Huddleston 1-1, Jeske 1-1, Dill 0-1, Lyday 0-1, McGinnis 0-2, Orr 0-3), Boise St. 12-23 (Degenhart 3-3, M.Rice 2-4, N.Smith 2-4, Agbo 2-5, NgaNga 1-2, Whiting 1-2, Kuzmanovic 1-3). Rebounds—E. Oregon 20 (O’Harra, Dill 4), Boise St. 39 (M.Rice 9). Assists—E. Oregon 7 (Malatare, Afework 2), Boise St. 18 (M.Rice 7). Total Fouls—E. Oregon 16, Boise St. 11. A—7,195 (12,480).