After another strong shooting performance, the Boise State men’s basketball team picked up their third straight win in grand style with a 99-71 victory over the San Jose State Spartans on Wednesday, Jan. 29 at ExtraMile Arena.
Like many basketball teams of all ages across the nation, the Spartans and the Broncos paid tribute to late NBA legend Kobe Bryant. After the opening tip-off, San Jose State began with an eight-second backcourt violation. After the turnover, Boise State ran the shot clock down to 24 seconds before stepping out of bounds. These acts of tribute represented honoring Bryant’s jersey numbers he wore throughout his 18-year NBA career.
“It’s remarkable how many people this situation has affected,” said Boise State head coach Leon Rice. “It meant a lot to these guys.”
In the first six minutes of the opening half, whether it was finding their big men down low or their guards behind the arc, Boise State produced baskets allowing them to take an early lead.
Despite the Broncos capitalizing on five of their first seven possessions of the game, the Spartans were putting their shots in, as well. Heading into the first media timeout, the game was tied 13-13.
Coming out of the timeout, the Spartans switched to a zone defense, forcing the Broncos to shoot the ball from 3-point range. Even with San Jose State contesting every shot, Boise State was able to score, including back-to-back 3-pointers from junior guard Derrick Alston, spreading the lead to 26-13.
After this early 13-0 scoring run, the Broncos never looked back.
To close the first half, the Broncos utilized their tenacious defense, forcing the Spartans to commit a total of six turnovers.
“The biggest thing for us is being able to take things defensively and keep getting better at those,” said senior guard Alex Hobbs. “That bye week helped us a lot because I think we were able to focus in on key areas where we need to improve.”
Alston led all first-half scorers with 14 points and the Broncos led the Spartans 42-27 heading into halftime.
“I had the 3-ball going, my teammates were finding me, I was playing on the fly, and being aggressive,” Alston said. “When everybody is getting the shots that they want to take and shots they know they can knock down, it’s a lot of fun.”
Coming out of the locker room, the Broncos continued to attack and find open lanes to the basket. When that wasn’t working out, Boise State found their shooters, allowing players like senior guard Justinian Jessup to heat up.
Boise State began the second half on a 12-4 run behind eight straight points by Jessup, forcing the Spartans to take their first timeout of the second half.
After the hot start, every made basket by the Broncos had the fans at ExtraMile Arena on their feet.
With the Broncos leading 94-63 late in the game, coach Rice decided to empty the bench and give the younger players some game action.
The highlight of the night came when redshirt freshman guard Bing Huang hit a deep 3-pointer with under a minute remaining, causing the fans at ExtraMile arena to erupt with excitement up until the clock hit zero.
The Broncos finished with a season-high 15 3’s against a Division I opponent. Alston finished with a game-high 27 points including going 6-8 from 3-point range. Jessup ended the night with 21 points, adding five 3’s to his name as well.
With this 99-71 victory, the Broncos have now had back-to-back wins of 25 or more points for the first time in 32 years.
“I’m proud of the direction we’re moving,” Rice said. “We got to have the fortitude to keep fighting and still get better.”
Boise State (14-8, 6-4 MW) will look to keep their momentum going against conference opponents when they face off against Nevada (13-9, 6-4 MW) at home on Saturday, Jan. 31 at 8 p.m MT.