BOISE – There wasn’t really any doubt, was there?
Marcus Shaver Jr. was taking the final shot. And it was going in.
Shaver, who hit four game-winning or game-tying 3-pointers in the final seconds last season, did it again Tuesday night with another winning 3-pointer with 2.4 seconds left to propel Boise State to a 67-64 win over San Jose State at ExtraMile Arena.
“He may be one of the most clutch players I’ve ever coached,” Boise State coach Leon Rice said. “When he snapped that off the way he did – I knew it was good. It just looked right and he was in rhythm. And he’s Marcus Shaver Jr.”
Shaver, who returned in a 74-72 to Nevada after missing four of the previous five games due to injury, was just 3 of 11 from the field and 0 for 3 from 3-point range Tuesday before connecting on the final shot.
He left the game and went to the locker room with about 7 minutes to go Tuesday with an ankle injury, but returned to the court with 3:30 to go.
Boise State called time out with 22 seconds left and the game tied at 64. But there was really no need to draw up a play. Shaver Jr. wanted the ball. And the rest of Bronco Nation did as well.
Shaver Jr. dribbled the ball as the clock ticked down, used a crossover dribble to get some separation from San Jose State’s Omari Moore and rose for his now-familiar step-back 3-pointer.
The sixth-year senior put both hands in the air in celebration as a crowd of 8,113 went bonkers in the stands.
“It’s my first game-winner at home so it felt good to do it in front of the home crowd,” Shaver Jr. said. “My teammates and coaches believed in me and I knocked it down for them. It was a tough game, stuff wasn’t going our way, but we just had to dig it out.”
It’s almost expected at this point that Shaver is going to do exactly what he did on Tuesday. We’ve seen it five times in the past 14 months.
“I’ve been in that situation a lot and it’s just like Im at the park getting up shots (saying) ‘3-2-1, Kobe!’,” Shaver said. “And it went in.”
Boise State got off to a nice start and led by as many as 12 points in the first half. The Broncos pushed the lead to 14 at 52-38 with 14:10 left in the game before San Jose State stormed back with a 26-11 run to take the lead in the final minute.
Shaver leaving for the locker room led to an 8-0 run from the Spartans that pulled them within 56-54 with 6:28 left.
Moore, who had a game-high 22 points for San Jose State, had a thunderous dunk and then hit a step-back 3-pointer to put the Spartans up 62-61 with 3:05 left.
“We were leaking oil and it was getting dicey,” Rice said. “We couldn’t stop them and we were struggling a little bit offensively and had some turnovers. But credit (Shaver), what toughness he has to come back out and hit that tough, tough shot.”
Shaver finished with nine points for the Broncos, while Chibuzo Agbo had a team-high 15. Agbo hit a key shot in the key to put the Broncos up 63-62 with 1:35 to go.
Max Rice had 14 points, Tyson Degenhart had 13 – but missed a key free throw in the final minute that would have given Boise State the lead – and Naje Smith had 11 for the Broncos, who won despite getting out-rebounded and letting San Jose State shoot 45 percent from the field.
And Shaver was the main reason why.
“It was the perfect storm,” Smith said. “I was looking at all the conditions. We had the ball with 20 seconds left, we had Shaver in the game and we had a tie ballgame so he could just be free and hoop. That’s the most fun time to play. If you miss you go into overtime, but if you make it you are the hero.
“And we know who the hero of this story is.”
Boise State returns to ExtraMile Arena on Saturday for a huge game against Utah State. Tip off is 4:30 p.m. and only limited tickets remain.