Before the Broncos suited up to face University of Wyoming on Feb. 5, head coach Gordy Presnell offered the team a statistic that put the rest of their season in perspective: the seniors had 160 minutes left to play on their home court.
“Make every second count,” Presnell said.
And make it count they did.
On what would prove to be a fast-paced, intense game at ExtraMile Arena, senior guard Jayde Christopher opened the night in classic Jayde Christopher style. On Wyoming’s first possession, Christopher stole the ball, took off on the fast break and passed the ball behind her back to senior forward A’Shanti Coleman, who hit the opening layup.
From then on, the Broncos (16-8, 8-4 MW) would hold a strong lead, wavering only in the second quarter when Wyoming came within seven points. But after halftime, the Broncos took off running once again, pulling ahead to gain the decisive conference victory 67-48.
“Our main goal is to get defensive stops on them. This game was really one where we wanted to redeem ourselves. They won there, so we had to win here,” Christopher said. “[I was] just keeping my head on a swivel and working on being in the right spots at the right times. I was just trying to get the ball as much as I could.”
A Bronco-dominated first quarter left Wyoming (11-10, 7-5 MW) with just three field goals, thanks to Boise State’s persistent defense which racked up seven steals and produced nine points from turnovers. The Broncos went on to end the night with 24 forced turnovers.
Capped off with a buzzer-beating layup by senior guard Braydey Hodgins, the Broncos ended the quick first quarter with a 21-9 lead.
The second quarter, however, brought a fired-up Wyoming, who went on a 10-0 scoring run over the opening three minutes. Boise State answered with the hand of sophomore guard Jade Loville, who completed a 5-0 run of her own. Loville, who racked up nine points in the nine minutes she played in the first half, was the only Bronco with points in the second quarter until Hodgins scored with 1:40 remaining.
“We’ve been pretty good this year at getting a lead and then giving it up,” Presnell said. “But [I’m] just really pumped with that third quarter and to come out playing pretty fired up.”
The 4-11 second quarter shooting performance from the Broncos visibly turned around after halftime. While holding Wyoming to seven points on just 2-10 shooting, Boise State snagged three more steals and put up 18 boards.
Senior guard Riley Lupfer, who was scoreless in the second quarter, racked up 10 points on 4-5 shooting, including a 3-pointer that pulled the Broncos back to a 10-point lead. Lupfer ended the night with 18 points on 7-9 shooting, including going 3-5 from deep.
Prior to Wednesday night’s 19-point victory over Wyoming, the Broncos suffered disappointing conference losses to Fresno State and San Jose State before picking up a win against Nevada.
“I feel like everyone has their legs under them now,” Lupfer said. “We were on kind of the downhill side…but we feel like we’re playing Bronco basketball again, and that feels good.”
Christopher finished the night with six steals, her career-high, and seven assists, contributing significantly to the Broncos’ season-high matching 15 steals.
“[Christopher is] like a centerfielder, she can fly around and intercept stuff in the back and so I was really happy for her the steals and then the way she can pass the ball,” Presnell said. “We’ve tried since the Nevada games to really be a little more uptempo. I think it’s helping.”
Boise State returns to action at ExtraMile Arena on Saturday, Feb. 8 at 2 p.m. to face Utah State (6-17, 1-11MW).