The Boise State men’s basketball team’s big men stole the show during the Broncos’ 75-63 win over University of Wyoming on Feb. 11.
This much-needed redeeming win came after a tough loss to San Diego State and helped the Broncos remind the Mountain West that they are a contending team for the conference championship.
“Everyone has been looking at us to prove ourselves,” said fifth-year forward Naje Smith. “We’re just trying to earn our respect right now.”
The Broncos’ impressive 41-23 lead at half was largely in part to the big men that were on display.
The Bronco defense was also clean as they held the Cowboys’ offense to just 40% from the field in the half.
A vibrant Smith was in the spotlight as he secured his first career double double with 18 points and 10 rebounds. He also entertained the crowd by nailing a backwards dunk and a deep three throughout the game.
Between his dance moves, sticking his tongue out and slapping his hands to the court, Smith was a force to be reckoned with.
“Sometimes I have to remember I am still in the game,” Smith said about his on-court antics. “I have something to finish off.”
With Shaver Jr. out of the boot after an ankle injury, the starting point guard for the Broncos is seemingly necessary for their success.
“It felt good,” Shaver said about his return. “I am still not 100 percent, but it feels good to contribute in any way I can.”
Shaver had 17 points on the night to go along with four rebounds and assists.
Despite the strong showing from the Broncos’ starting lineup, their bench was still lacking.
The seven bench players that saw playing time, didn’t score a single point in the game.
“We have a lot of faith and trust in the guys from off the bench,” Smith said. “It could be anyone’s night … they’re just waiting for their opportunity. It’s tough with the starters only scoring points, but I know they’ll be ready.”
With the bench struggles looming over the Broncos’ season, the severity of the issue becomes much more jarring as the season draws to a close.
“From day one, the key to us is bench contribution, and we need more,” head coach Leon Rice said. “It doesn’t mean they didn’t do good things … but to go where we want to go, we need to have them at their best.”
Despite Wyoming losing three former Pac-12 transfers this week, they were able to find momentum late in the second half with back-to-back deep threes.
The night didn’t end as smoothly as anticipated.
A wild ending unfolded as Max Rice and Lukas Milner both received a technical foul and were ejected from the game with less than one minute remaining on the clock.
However, the Broncos proved too much for the Cowboys as they garnered up a run of their own to secure the 75-63 victory.
The Broncos maintain their spot as the third seed in the Mountain West standings, improving to 9-3 in the conference.
“Just one game at a time,” Shaver said. “If you have that mindset, everything will take care of itself.”
The remaining five games are pivotal for the Broncos and seemingly must-win situations to be contenders for the NCAA tournament.
“We don’t play out of fear,’’ Leon Rice said. “We play out of joy and togetherness.”
Boise State will continue conference play as they face Colorado State in Fort Collins, Colorado, on Feb. 15.