Victory tastes a little bit sweeter on the road against a quality opponent. The Boise State Broncos may have barely hung on, but they proved they had the guile on Wednesday night to deal with adversity.
Emmanuel Akot hit a three-pointer with 13 seconds remaining, breaking a 70-all tie, and the Broncos (3-1) defeated the BYU Cougars 74-70.
The Broncos defeated the Cougars 72-68 last season in ExtraMile Arena.
Despite foul trouble and struggles from the free throw line (12-18 in the second-half, 14-21 overall), Boise State managed to eke out the victory. After opening a big lead early, it was a fantastic defensive effort and some timely second-half shooting that aided the Broncos.
And of course, the play of sophomore guard RayJ Dennis.
Dennis put together another solid effort with a team-high 37 minutes and 19 points. The point total was a season-high and Dennis did so on 8-12 shooting from the field.
Dennis also had five assists and committed only one turnover, all while frustrating BYU (5-2) leading-scorer Alex Barcello off-and-on throughout the game.
Abu Kigab added 14 points, 12 of which came in the last 8:15 of the game. Kigab made two huge threes in this span to help stem BYU comebacks.
Akot had 13 points, Derrick Alston, Jr had 12, and Max Rice added nine for the Broncos, who were without a banged up Marcus Shaver, Jr this game.
It was the defense and a huge early lead that ultimately helped pave the way for the Boise State Broncos victory.
First-half surge for Boise State Broncos
Boise State showed their athleticism and a physical prowess from the get-go on Wednesday night.
And in the paint, Mladen Armus and Lukas Milner were doing all they could to keep BYU from getting easy buckets and rebounds.
The Broncos jumped out to a 14-0 lead off buckets from Alston and Dennis, plus threes from Akot and Rice.
They also forced BYU turnovers in the game’s first eight minutes while holding the Cougars to 0-7 from the floor.
Matt Haarms finally got BYU on the scoreboard with 11:22 left in the half. Less than a minute later, he connected again, also drawing a foul on Armus, his second of the half.
The Broncos weren’t done, however, as they forced a second BYU shot clock violation and an Alston three-point play gave the Boise State a 19-5 lead.
Milner would pick up his third foul with just under seven minutes left and the Cougars were able to chip away at the lead. Barcello’s first bucket of the game came with three seconds left, making it 30-21 Broncos at the break.
Boise State held BYU to just 1-10 from beyond the arc in the first half and outrebounded the Cougars by two.
Holding off the second-half rally
The Cougars finally got going behind the arc in the second-half and were also aided by Bronco foul trouble.
Milner got going on the offensive end for the Broncos, scoring six points over a quick stretch. During this time, however, Spencer Johnson knocked down a couple of threes and Barcello added one as BYU was able to battle back to tie the game at 48 with 10:00.
Milner fouled out just prior to this, picking up his fifth foul at the 10:17 mark.
A couple of minutes later, with the Broncos leading 54-50, Armus joined him on the bench. He fouled out on a play that was ultimately determined to be a flagrant 1 foul for a hook-and-hold.
Led by Kigab, the Broncos responded and extended their lead to nine at 60-51. Missed free throws and BYU’s resiliency kept things interesting. Barcello was able to tie the score at 70 with :37 remaining before Akot hit his huge shot.
Barcello ended with a game-high 22 points and Haarms added 18. The Cougars were 6-11 from three-point range in the second half while shooting 61.3 percent from the field.
Boise State finished with a plus three margin on the boards and forced 14 BYU turnovers in the victory.
The Broncos will have nearly a week off before returning to action. They are scheduled to host Santa Clara next Tuesday night (12/15) at ExtraMile Arena.