RENO – With Nevada on a run, a near sellout crowd going crazy and the roof seemingly about to cave in, the Boise State men’s basketball team took a deep breath and relaxed.
They’d already been here plenty of times this season. And that experience was about to pay off.
The Broncos remained calm and never gave up the lead, hitting some big baskets and free throws down the stretch to hold on for an impressive and important 64-56 road win at Nevada on Friday night at the Lawlor Events Center.
After going 9-4 with a brutal schedule in non-conference play, Boise State (12-4) improved to 3-0 in Mountain West play and became the first team with two road wins in conference play.
“Down the stretch it got a little scary,” Boise State guard Max Rice told Bronco Nation News. “I know you heard how loud it got in here, but to be able to finish that game out I think says a lot about our team and we’re coming home with another Quad 1 win. It’s a great feeling.
“I know fans were on us early about losing some of those games but I think it pays off and pays dividends in conference games like this when all the fans are shouting down on you and you able to finish a game like that and really boost your resume for March.”
Boise State certainly did that. The Broncos improved to 3-3 in Quad 1 games and jumped from No. 57 all the way to No. 42 in the NET ranking, which is used by the NCAA Selection Committee. Boise State also jumped from No. 59 to No. 50 at KenPom.com.
The win was the second Quad 1 win in three days for the Broncos, who topped No. 17 Colorado State earlier in the week.
Tyson Degenhart had 20 points and nine rebounds to lead the Broncos, who led by as many as 10 points midway through the second half but saw it dwindle to just 55-53 with 1:45 to play.
“I think early in the season if we were in that situation we would have lost that game, but we’ve been through it so much that we just know how to find a way to get a win,” Degenhart told BNN. “We just stayed really connected. We knew they were going to throw some punches and get close and make the game close, we just knew we had to stick together. We weren’t going to win this game 1 on 5. We had to win it 5 on 5.
“We know what we have in the locker room and I don’t think a bunch of people really believed in us especially when we had four losses in the non-con, but we know what we have and we have a very talented team. We’re just going to continue to keep working and keep getting better.”
Roddie Anderson had 12 points including seven straight during a stretch early in the second half. Chibuzo Agbo had 12 points and Max Rice added 10 – including the biggest shot of the game to seal the deal.
With the crowd going crazy and Nevada trailing just 55-53, Rice drove to the right, hit his defender and threw up a shot as he was falling to the floor. No foul was called, but the ball banked off the glass, rolled around the rim and fell in with one second on the shot clock and 1:16 on the game clock to give the Broncos a 57-53 lead.
Nevada couldn’t any closer – and the Broncos retreated to the locker room to celebrate the best conference win of any team in the Mountain West to date.
“I didn’t play very good but I’d like to think I can make shots like that down the stretch and help my team,” Max Rice said. “Me and Leon were talking about it earlier today and this is the last time I’m going to play in these venues and I want to take advantage of it. I’m not scared of the moment either.”
Boise State went 17 of 20 from the foul line, including several in the final few tense minutes to ice the game. Degehart went 7 of 8 from the line, while O’Mar Stanley was 6 for 6. Rice was 3 for 4.
But the biggest reason Boise State won the game? Defense and rebounding. The Broncos had an eye-popping 43-24 edge on the glass and allowed just two offensive rebounds to Nevada.
The Broncos also held Nevada to 36 percent shooting and just 56 points – more than 20 below their season average of 78.
“It took everything we had,” coach Leon Rice said. “Not a lot of teams are going to win here. It was deafening. These guys couldn’t hear a thing I was saying. But we responded. What a great game and what a great win for our guys.
“I’m just really proud of our guys, to come in here and out-rebound them like we did. That took a lot of grit and toughness. … We’re doing a good job defensively and we’re just getting better every time out as a team.”
Boise State returns home for a pair of home games, Tuesday night against UNLV and next Saturday against San Diego State.