Boise State basketball: Clutch free throws land Bronco victory

Reported attendance for Tuesday night at the ExtraMile Arena was 9,193. Each of them had to hold their breath with 1.7 seconds left to play.

BOISE, Idaho- The Wednesday weekly: February 23, 2022.

It was nearly death by a thousand paper cuts in the form of San Diego State’s three-pointers on Tuesday night at ExtraMile Arena. The Aztecs drained six tries in seven in the second half. And some Boise State missed free throws also looked like paper cuts. But the scenario changed at the end. SDSU star Matt Bradley missed two giveaways with seven seconds left, and the Broncos’ Abu Kigab calmly drilled two free throws with 1.7 seconds left to give Boise State a dramatic 58-57 victory. Kigab led the Broncos with 21 points. And we won’t forget the last two. How about Boise State winning a game on a pair of free throws under pressure? Of course, BSU was 17 of 26 from the strip for a lukewarm 65%. But the Broncos, once second-to-last in the nation, have completed 75% of their attempts in the past ten games.


In its Tuesday morning preview of the game, the San Diego Union-Tribune made a big deal out of the final four weeks of the season — for both San Diego State and Boise State. They were quick to point out the Aztecs’ strong record: 33-6 against Mountain West competition from Feb. 11 over the past five years. The Broncos’ record during the same period was also duly noted: 16-18. It’s not over yet, but the narrative has certainly changed at this point. Would Boise State have won a game like this a year ago? Maybe not. But here, the Broncos are 22-6 overall and 13-2 in Mountain West, and winners in 19 of their last 21 games. Those waiting for an end-of-season fade? Well, they’re still waiting in the middle of one of Mountain West’s best hoops seasons. This team has a bit of the “it” factor.

Sometimes the sparks come from sources unlikely for Boise State. Naje Smith barely played last Saturday against Utah State – two minutes, zero points. But the man was Smith ready to fire against San Diego State. He had 13 points, blocked two shots and four interceptions. Smith made both of his three-point attempts, and one of them was just about the weirdest you’ve ever seen. Towards the end of the first half, he had a three-pointer dismissed by Nathan Mensah of the Aztecs 6-10. Smith got the ball back and, as the shot clock was about to expire, threw a line prayer that went in. Mensah fouled him on the play and Smith converted the Broncos’ first four-point play of the season.


Sunday’s horrific Juwan Howard incident was ironic, coming a day after a fight between Utah State’s Ryan Odom and Boise State’s Leon Rice. This one pales in comparison to the Michigan coach. Late in the Broncos’ win, Odom tried to use the time out to replace a fouled player as a free timeout. Max Rice understood this and stood by the USU group. This infuriated Odom, who exchanged words with Max and then his father. They had a little discussion in the handshake line.

“I’m not mad at Leon,” Odom said. “We were in a caucus and I don’t want any of his players in my caucus. It turns out it was his son. I didn’t like it, and that’s it. Max, however, was within his rights.

FIRST DEEP DIVE ON MW FOOTBALL’s Bill Connelly has done some serious homework on Mountain West’s mountain division, and that’s the subject of his latest college football preview. Here’s the start: “Utah State looked so good late in the season that it’s fair to wonder if the balance of power in the division has at least temporarily shifted in favor of the Aggies. We’ll see. They have plenty of stars to replace, and on paper Boise State’s general recruiting advantages (and the advantages they showed in last season’s big wins) put them back at the top of the preseason pile. . The Broncos, whom Connelly calls “incredibly inconsistent” last year, were on the wrong side of the big plays. “They lost the big game battle, ranking 118th in ‘marginal explosiveness’ on offense and 88th on defense,” Connelly writes. “Opponents averaged 13.3 yards per completed pass.”

Connelly reflects on Boise State’s personnel with this: “Quarterback Hank Bachmeier, running back George Holani, high-yield receiver Stefan Cobbs and three potential linemen from all conferences return on offense, and the defense is absolutely loaded with experience and upside, from dynamic tackles Scott Matlock and Jackson Cravens up front to disruptive safeties Tyreque Jones and JL Skinner at back. But Khalil Shakir is gone, and BSU heads into 2022 without a known and fearsome weapon. Big plays create easy runs, and we don’t know if the Broncos will create more than last year. Well, that depends on an improved Bachmeier and (dare I say) Cobbs, who certainly has that kind of big-game potential.


Staff meetings in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan, will be nothing if not interesting going forward. As you’ve heard, Idaho’s final two head coaches will be paired as coach Jim McElwain’s coordinators at Central Michigan — Paul Petrino on offense and Robb Akey on defense. Petrino, of course, replaced Akey in 2012 after the latter was fired at the end of the 2011 season. Petrino and the Vandals went their separate ways at the end of last season. Petrino has always been buttoned up as a chef in Moscow. Akey was not. Remember the 2009 Humanitarian Bowl when Akey blurted into Heather Cox’s ESPN microphone, “Watch the second half – you’re going to love it.” The low-key Petrino didn’t make the same kind of statement during the 2016 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. Vandals fans loved that one too, though.


Little known fact about former Boise State star Donte Deayon: Although he went undrafted six years ago and spends more time on practice squads than active rosters, it is on the market and may have some value. The LA Rams cornerback tweeted this on Tuesday: “First time in the unrestricted free agency market! The opportunity to prove myself again is all I ask! Deayon left the practice squad and played the second half of the season for the Rams. He was dressed for the Super Bowl but didn’t play. However, her ring will be as big as everyone else’s. Deayon played just 21 NFL games in five years, but 10 of those came last season with LA. He has 48 career tackles.


The Idaho Steelheads and Worcester Railers play for the first time tonight at Idaho Central Arena. The Massachusetts team will also be in Boise on Friday and Saturday. The Railers, who started play in 2017-18, will be the “most easterly” side the Steelheads have ever faced. The Steelies have lost two of their three games over the past week and are coming off an unforgettable President’s Day, as they lost 5-1 to the Kansas City Mavericks. The highlight: striker Zach Walker’s goals in all three games. Idaho remains four points behind Utah in the ECHL Mountain Division.


College of Idaho, already assured of a berth in the NAIA National Tournament as the Cascade Conference regular season champion, opens the league tournament tonight in Caldwell against Multnomah. The Yotes are on an eight-game winning streak and have won 19 of their last 20 games. C de I will also go on a 14-game winning streak at home in this quarter-final game. The North West Nazarene wraps up their regular season this week with a three-game home run, starting with an 85-64 loss to Simon Fraser on Tuesday night. The Nighthawks host Seattle Pacific on Thursday and Montana State Billings on Saturday.

THIS DAY IN SPORT…February 23, 1989:

Boise State makes its first national television appearance in the pavilion, hosting Idaho live on ESPN. Senior Chris Childs led the Broncos to an intense 63-61 win in front of a sold-out crowd of 12,422 – still the second-largest in school history. Boise State was the defending Big Sky champion and would win the conference regular season title, but the Vandals would upset the Broncos in the Big Sky Tournament Championship Game in the pavilion to earn a trip to the NCAA Tournament the following week to play UNLV… in the Pavilion.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and presents four sports segments each weekday on 95.3 FM KTIK. He has also served as a color commentator on Boise State football broadcasts of KTVB for 14 seasons.)

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