Boise State men’s basketball is back. The team opened their 2021-22 season with a win over Utah Valley 76-56 on Nov. 9. The teams have not faced off since the 2007-08 season where the Broncos won in overtime 73-72.
Bronco Nation filled ExtraMile Arena with 7,457 tickets sold for the team’s home opener. On Oct. 21, Boise State Athletics announced a full capacity arena for both men’s and women’s home basketball games.
Before tip-off, head coach Leon Rice announced free pizza to students if they showed out for the game on Twitter. Tickets were distributed to 1,211 students and Bronco Nation made its presence known within ExtraMile Arena.
“I was so happy to see the crowd and hear the emotion when we made a good play,” Coach Rice said. “It lifted our guys. It makes a difference to have the energy back in the building.”
Utah Valley scored first after two missed jump balls from Boise State. But a minute later, fifth-year forward Abu Kigab got the Broncos in the game with a driving layup.
Kigab scored 12 points throughout the game including seven rebounds, three assists, three steals and two blocks.
“It feels good, I take pride in my defense,” Kigab said when asked about his three steals. “Defense is something I love and I really take pride in it. That’s the only stats I really care about are my defensive ones. Steals, blocks, rebounds and everything else will take care of itself.”
Senior guard Devonaire Doutrive was the leading scorer with 18 points. In his 19 games as a Bronco, Doutrive has scored in double digits nine times.
“I’m just doing basically what the coaches need me to do,” Doutrive said when asked about being a lead scorer and stepping into a leadership role. “Today is my night, tomorrow it could be somebody else’s night and I’ve just got to come every day and give it my all.”
Behind him, senior forward Naje Smith trailed with a career-high of 15 points and matched his career-best with five rebounds.
One of the most exciting plays of the first half was a behind-the-back pass from sophomore guard Pavle Kuzmanovic to Smith for a two-handed dunk. Kuzmanovic finished with a career-high of nine points and two assists.
The Broncos took the lead over the Wolverines 38-27 before heading into halftime.
Utah Valley made a comeback early in the second half with a nine-point lead, but Boise State quickly responded with a 15 point run to secure their largest lead of the night (56-34). During this run redshirt senior forward Mladen Armus and redshirt senior guard Emmanuel Akot combined for 13 points. One of Armus’ points was a driving dunk in traffic.
The Wolverines attempted to close the gap to 11 points with roughly four minutes left of play, but Smith closed out with eight points in the final three minutes.
“[Smith] takes great shots, he moves the ball, he knows his role,” Coach Rice said. “Fifteen points off six shots, you couldn’t be more efficient. He’s also a great team guy and loves to get assists.”
The Broncos will take on UC Irvine on Saturday, Nov. 13 in Irvine, California, before heading to Charleston, South Carolina, for the 2021 Shriners Children’s Charleston Classic on Nov. 18-21.