SANTA CLARA, Calif. – At some point the short bench and absence of their leading scorer was going to catch up to the Boise State men’s basketball team.
It happened on Thursday.
Boise State struggled in the second half, couldn’t stop a crazy Santa Clara run and fell, 73-58, in front of an announced crowd of 1,061 at the Leavey Center.
The Broncos (10-3) saw their nine-game winning streak come to an end as they disperse across the country for a short three-day Christmas break.
Playing without Marcus Shaver Jr. for the fourth time in the past five games, Boise State led 36-34 at the half but saw Santa Clara outscore them 37-20 in the final 20 minutes.
“I think we just got worn down a little bit,” coach Leon Rice said. “There’s not many teams including Gonzaga that would want to play at Santa Clara without their best player because this is a good team. When they get shooting and moving the ball, they have size, physicality, they are well coached. We were going to have to playa great game – and we played a great first half. We were sharp. But I don’t know. I think we ran out of gas.”
Chibuzo Agbo had 12 points, Tyson Degenhart had 11 and Max Rice added 10 for the Broncos, who went 5 of 10 from 3-point range in the first half but just 1 of 7 from deep in the second half.
Boise State shot just 34.4 percent from the field overall, while Santa Clara shot 44.1 percent from the field and made 10 shots from beyond the 3-point arc.
Santa Clara also out-rebounded the Broncos, 41-35.
“Life on the road, it’s tough, specially against good teams,” Rice said. “This was like a precursor to conference play and you need all your guns firing to get those wins in conference.
“I was proud with how we started the game but it seemed like their team had more energy in the second half than we did and there weren’t a lot of answers for me to shuffle the deck on the bench.”
Boise State led 31-23 late in the first half but Santa Clara cut the lead to 36-34 thanks in part to a fluky 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Santa Clara kept the momentum going, extending the run to 31-7 to open up a 62-43 lead. The Broncos had just four points in the first nine minutes of the second half.
“It was just one of those nights,” Rice said.
Boise State’s players traveled home commercially Thursday evening to be with family for Christmas. The Broncos will reconvene in Boise on the evening of Dec. 25 before hitting the road to start Mountain West play at Nevada on Dec. 28.
The Broncos finished nonconference play with four top-75 wins – Washington State, Colorado, Texas A&M and Saint Louis – and will take a 10-3 mark with them into conference play. Even with the loss Thursday the Broncos have set themselves up nicely with a strong start to the year.
“If you would have told me I’d have to go No Shave December (Shaver has missed 4 of 5 games in December) and we’d be 10-3 I’d probably take it,” Rice said. “I’d settle out of court for it.”
The Broncos will have to sit on this one for a few days, but they’ll start defense of their Mountain West championship in less than a week.
The fun starts now.
“When we come back we’ll play with a passion and a hunger because we don’t like losing,” Rice said. “I have a bunch of guys that hate losing. I had to make sure they enjoy their families, go do that because that’s what Christmas is for, and then we’ll close the book on that and come back and get after it and get our toughness and our competitiveness because that’s what it’s going to have to take.”
Tip off in Reno on Dec. 28 is set for 8pm MT and the game will stream on the Mountain West Network.