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Boise State Tops Santa Clara in Battle of Broncos

The non-conference portion of the college basketball schedule often serves as a time for teams to work out the kinks. Hopes were high for Boise State basketball coming into the season. Although the Broncos lost some key players from last year’s NCAA Tournament team, coach Leon Rice still has plenty of talent and experience to work with. However, Boise State failed to achieve consistent success early on this season.

That roller coaster start feels like a distant memory following Tuesday night’s 72-60 win over Santa Clara. The victory marked the fourth straight for Boise State basketball and is all the more impressive when one considers that the Broncos trailed by three at the halftime break. BSU thoroughly dominated the second half on their way to emerging victorious in the first meeting between the broncos from the Mountain West and West Coast Conferences since 1989.

abu kigab boise state basketball college
Credit: USA TODAY Sports

Balanced Scoring Propels Boise State Basketball Past Santa Clara

A lack of proven depth has led Leon Rice to rely on a very tight rotation this season. That thin bench was on display against Santa Clara as only seven BSU players saw the floor in the 12-point win. Despite this, one cannot deny the balanced scoring that Boise State got in Tuesday night’s contest. Four of the Broncos’ five starters scored in double figures, and the frontcourt was particularly effective against SCU.

Freshman Tyson Degenhart continued to do his part in rejuvenating Boise State basketball after their slow start. He led all scorers in Tuesday’s game with 18 points. Degenhart has the potential to be an under-the-radar player who really makes his presence felt in Mountain West Conference play.

Meanwhile, upperclassmen teammates Mladen Amus and Abu Kigab weren’t far behind with 17 and 16 points, respectively. Amus also corralled 12 rebounds in a strong double-double effort. Senior guard Marcus Shaver Jr. scored 12 points and was particularly effective in attacking the interior of the Santa Clara defense.

Shaver drew contact on a drive to the rim with just over five minutes left and converted the three-point play to give Boise a seven-point lead at the time. He also combined with Emmanuel Akot to distribute nine assists of the Broncos’ 11 total assists for the game.

Boise State Excels on the Offensive Glass

While the balanced scoring certainly helped, there was another key area of Tuesday’s game that Boise State dominated. Considering that BSU had lower shooting percentages from the field, three-point range and at the charity stripe, the Broncos’ ability to gain a sizable edge on the boards was vital to them picking up the win. For the game, Boise State basketball outrebounded Santa Clara 41-30.

As both teams corralled 25 defensive rebounds, BSU’s entire statistical advantage actually came entirely on the offensive glass. A whopping 16 offensive rebounds led to numerous second-chance scoring opportunities. It was those second-chance points that helped Boise overcome abysmal team shooting percentages from beyond the arc (29.4%) and from the foul line (69.2%).

Turnovers Doom Santa Clara Basketball in Loss

For Santa Clara, Tuesday night’s loss can largely be chalked up to sloppy play. The WCC’s Broncos came into the game averaging just over 11 turnovers per outing. They were much worse than that against Boise State, giving away 19 total possessions on the evening. The 19 turnovers plus the massive disparity on the offensive glass were simply too much for Santa Clara basketball to overcome.

On the offensive end, junior guard Jalen Williams connected on two of three shots from beyond the arc on his way to finishing with 12 points. He also handed out three assists. Senior Josip Vrankic matched Williams with a dozen points. No other Santa Clara players were able to crack double-digits scoring. Despite having better shooting percentages than Boise State as a team, the turnover issues ultimately led to SCU attempting 13 fewer shots for the game.

Looking Ahead

With the “Battle of the Broncos” now in the books, here is what lies ahead for both Boise State and Santa Clara basketball.

Mountain West Conference Opener Looming for Boise State

Boise State will look to run their winning streak to five in a row this Sunsay when they host a non-Division I opponent in Montana Tech. The Broncos will then travel to Washington State next Wednesday before finishing out the month of December with their Mountain West Conference season-opener at home against Fresno State.

Busy Two Weeks Underway for Santa Clara

Tuesday night’s loss marked the fifth defeat in the last seven games for Santa Clara basketball after a 5-0 start to the season. The Broncos are running out of time to make adjustments before the start of WCC play. This latest defeat marked the first game of four that Santa Clara will play over the next eight days.

Up next, Santa Clara will host Florida A&M on Friday night before welcoming in Montana on Sunday afternoon. The busy week concludes with a road trip to face another Mountain West opponent in San Jose State next Tuesday. Coach Herb Sendek’s team will open WCC basketball conference play on December 30th against Pacific.

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