BOISE – Marcus Shaver Jr. nearly lost it.
First he was frustrated with his teammates for not passing him the ball. Then a minute later it was a no-call by the official when he got knocked to the ground on a layup attempt.
After being removed from the game he sat motionless on the bench, staring out into space as he fumed from a frustrating couple of minutes.
It made the finish even more memorable.
Shaver Jr. somehow cleared his head, returned to the game and hit six clutch free throws in the final 58 seconds to help Boise State hang on for a 73-69 win over UNLV on Sunday night at ExtraMile Arena.
Earlier in the game Shaver Jr. hit a free throw to surpass 1,000 career points at Boise State. His perfect 6 for 6 mark in the final minute helped clinch the game.
“That’s what you have to do to win the close games,” Boise State coach Leon Rice said. “He’s really going out the right way, I know that. He’s embracing it and giving it everything he has.”
On surpassing 1,000 points at Boise State, Rice added, “That’s quite the accomplishment. It’s impressive. He’s left his mark on this program and he’ll be up on the wall some day with a lot of the great ones.”
But the 1,000 point-milestone almost didn’t matter had the Broncos not won the game. And they wouldn’t have won had Shaver not been perfect down the stretch. All three came in one-and-one situations, with the outcome still in doubt.
And the late-game heroics came minutes after a frustrated Shaver Jr. appeared to be bickering at teammates for not passing him the ball. On the next possession he got the ball and never gave it up, driving the line and getting knocked to the floor while missing a layup.
Shaver Jr. then turned his frustration to the officials, complaining about the no-call. He was quickly removed from the game by Rice, and stood frustrated behind the team during the time out. When play resumed, he appeared to be fuming while sitting on the bench.
“I was fired up,” Shaver Jr. admitted. “I’m a competitor and that side of me just came out. I have to be better with that and be in control of my emotions and not let it show out like that.”
Asked if he was good with everything after the game, he quickly said, “Yeah, I’m good. I’m chilling.”
Shaver Jr. finished with a game-high 19 points for the Broncos, including a perfect 8 for 8 from the foul line.
“Two years ago he couldn’t have done that,” Rice said of Shaver Jr. putting his frustration behind him. “We don’t win that game if (he doesn’t) regroup. Marcus has gotten good at that. It’s natural to get an emotional reaction and it’s natural to get frustrated, but it’s how you respond that finishes and changes the game.”
Max Rice had 17 points, Naje Smith had 13 and Tyson degenhart added 11 for the Broncos, who won despite making just 4 of 16 from 3-point range.
Lukas Milner added nine points and the Broncos were a team-best plus-21 with him on the floor. It was the second straight impressive game from Milner, who had a key putback and block late in the win at Colorado State.
“That’s what this team needed,” Rice said of Milner. “We don’t win this game without him playing the way he did.”
Elijah Harkless and Shane Nowell each had 14 points to lead UNLV, which made 11 of 26 from 3-point range and had a slight 32-31 edge on the glass.
Boise State trailed 26-19 before ending the first half on a 19-6 run to lead 38-32. Neither team led by more than seven the entire game. UNLV cut the deficit to 2 in the final seconds before Shaver iced the game at the line.
“They aren’t perfect and there’s things I’d love if we could do better but I always say, we do the most important thing well – and that’s find a way to win,” Rice said.
With the win Boise State (21-6, 11-3 MW) remains one-game back of first place San Diego State ahead of a huge home game with New Mexico on Wednesday night at 8:30 p.m.
Boise State has four games remaining – New Mexico, at San Jose State on Saturday, San Diego State on Feb. 28 and at Utah State on March 4. Win all four and the Broncos are assured of at least a share o the Mountain West title.
“These are the opportunities that you want,” Rice said. “This is exciting and our guys are embracing it and enjoying every second of it.”
FULL POSTGAME COVERAGE