A Foul Win: Boise State defeats UNLV 73-69 in a down-to-the-wire game

Corissa Campbell | The Arbiter

Fouls were the center of attention during the Boise State Broncos’ 73-69 win against University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV). 

With 35 total foul calls in the contest, the down-to-the-wire game was shaped by its large number of foul calls and free throws. 

The first half was one of the most competitive, explosive and dramatic halves of this season. 

Starting off early in the half, the fifth-year senior guard Marcus Shaver Jr. scored his 1,000th point as a Bronco, a feat only 28 other Broncos have accomplished.

“It means a lot,” Shaver said. “Being here at this program, playing for coach (Leon Rice), my teammates. It means a lot. I didn’t even know I scored 1,000 to be honest … but there’s other things we’re trying to achieve here.”

In one of his last games at ExtraMile Arena, Shaver reflected on his time as a Bronco. 

“It did hit me, I’m not going to lie,” Shaver said. “When I came out of the locker room, I saw all the fans cheering. It did hit me for a minute … that’s all I have to say. I don’t want to get emotional here.”

The early celebrations were cut short by a competitive UNLV squad. 

Though many anticipated the Broncos would dominate UNLV by a wide margin, it was quite the opposite. 

“I think they are one of the better Quad-3 teams in the nation,” Max Rice said. “We were a little worried about them … it was a good Mountain West game tonight.”

The Rebels had a response for nearly every point Boise State scored. Pairing that with a strong defense and multiple blocked shots, UNLV garnered a 26-19 lead over the Broncos late in the first half.

Despite a poor shooting half by the Broncos (35.5%), UNLV’s foul trouble late into the half proved to be crucial for a last-minute Bronco push.

The Rebels’ foul trouble aided the Broncos to score 10 of their last 18 points in the half from the free- throw line. 

The Broncos regained a 38-32 lead entering halftime. 

Opening up the second half, things weren’t looking too bright. 

The Broncos quickly loosened their control after back-to-back turnovers and a foul, giving way to the Rebels to make a slight comeback and even the score 38-38.

Both teams fell back into foul trouble quickly, making each free throw and play even more crucial than the last.

With just 58 seconds left in the game, the most intense competition emerged. 

Throughout the game, fouls and free throws were at the center of a heated debate. Both teams combined for 35 fouls, 15 of which came from the Broncos. 

12 points were scored in under one minute as the down-to-the-wire game was determined by mere foul calls and free throws.

Two fouls were drawn on Shaver leading to four successful free throws, although the Rebels had an answer. UNLV knocked down two three-pointers to make the score 71-69.  

“Those were two three-pointers we did not expect them to make,” Shaver said. “But we kept our composure and just knocked down our free throws.”  

The third foul drawn on Bronco veteran Shaver was the last straw. 

The Broncos’ two free-throw shots sealed the 73-69 wins for Boise State.

“This league has been great, and we have embraced the competition,” head coach Leon Rice said. “You have to play good to win these games … do whatever it takes, and that is what this team has been doing.”

[Photo of fifth-year senior guard Marcus Shaver Jr.]
Corissa Campbell | The Arbiter

Shaver came up big in this game — not just making his mark on his Bronco legacy with 1,000 career points, but also knocking down six consecutive free throws when his team needed it the most. 

“Just breathe,” Shaver said about his crucial last-second free throws. “Knowing that I have been in that situation before … just one shot at a time.”

One of the newer additions to the game was the early incorporation of the bench players. 

Leon Rice began to rearrange the starting lineup early and continued to do so throughout the game.

Though the struggles on the bench have been evident throughout the season, fifth-year senior center Lukas Milner has been a shining star these last two games. 

“I probably should’ve had more minutes for [Lukas],” head coach Leon Rice said. “But you have your guys we are secure with … we don’t win that game without him playing the way he did.”

Milner went 3-3 from the field, nine points and the best plus-minus (+/-) of all the Broncos (21).

As the Broncos look to close out the season with just four games left before the Mountain West tournament, the team is ready to kick it into high gear.

“Oh we’re hungry,” Shaver said. “Everybody in the locker room is hungry. We know we are so close to our goal … we can’t take one game off … nothing is given in the Mountain West.”

The reigning Mountain West conference champions are looking to go back-to-back and return to Boise as champions once again. 

“We really want it,” redshirt senior guard Max Rice said. “We know the feeling of storming the court and winning it all … that’s what we’ve been working toward. We’re not playing to get second so we’re going to leave it all out there on these last four games left till the tournament.” 

The Broncos will return to ExtraMile Arena for their next game as they take on New Mexico on Feb. 22.

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