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Sports >  WSU basketball

Boise State takes advantage of poor shooting night from Washington State, holds on for 71-61 win

Nov. 12, 2022 Updated Sat., Nov. 12, 2022 at 8:46 p.m.

Washington State junior TJ Bamba scored a career-high 24 points Saturday in Boise.  (Courtesy WSU Athletics)
Washington State junior TJ Bamba scored a career-high 24 points Saturday in Boise. (Courtesy WSU Athletics)
By Jordan Rodriguez For The Spokesman-Review

BOISE – An early season road test for the Washington State men’s basketball team earned high marks for effort and toughness, but it wasn’t enough to overcome a cold shooting night or the balanced attack of an experienced Boise State team.

Junior guard TJ Bamba led all scorers with a career-high 24 points, but the Cougars (1-1) shot just 35% from the field as the host Broncos (1-1) pulled away for a 71-61 nonconference victory at Idaho Central Arena.

“It was a battle, just like we knew it would be,” WSU coach Kyle Smith said. “We played hard, but you can’t have three assists and 15 turnovers and think you’re going to win on the road.”

Senior point guard Marcus Shaver Jr. led five Boise State players in double figures with 15 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and four steals. Max Rice added 15 points and eight rebounds while Spokane products Tyson Degenhart (Mt. Spokane) and Naje Smith (Lewis and Clark) chipped in 14 and 12 points, respectively.

“These were two good teams,” Boise State coach Leon Rice said. “Last year this win was a feather in our cap all year long when we beat them in Spokane, and now we have a neutral-court win against a team that has a chance to be a top-50 team.”

WSU scored the first eight points while Boise State’s offense sputtered. But the Broncos bounced back with an 11-0 run, and the home team never trailed again. Shaver was the catalyst, pushing the pace after rebounds and steals to create easy baskets, including an alley-oop jam by Naje Smith that brought the crowd to its feet.

“We got off to a good start, but then we settled for some bad shots and (Boise State) kept coming,” Kyle Smith said. “Shaver had a couple pick-sixes that he turned into layups, and those are big swings.”

The Broncos led 29-22 after a choppy first half. Both teams made more baskets in the second half, but the Cougars never settled into an offensive rhythm. Outside shots weren’t falling for Boise State, either, but the Broncos compensated by earning a 42-26 scoring edge in the paint as well as a 17-7 advantage in points off turnovers.

Still, WSU refused to go away. Bamba provided enough offense to keep the Cougars afloat, hitting 9-of-16 shots, including 4 of 7 on 3-pointers.

“TJ played hard, and he was able to make baskets and make plays for us,” Kyle Smith said. “He was guarding Shaver, too, so he was pulling double duty there. He was great.”

WSU owned a 42-34 edge on the glass, including 14 offensive rebounds that led to 17 second-chance points. Senior forward DJ Rodman led the charge with 14 rebounds while Bamba and junior guard Justin Powell added seven apiece.

“Playing as hard as we did, that really gave us a chance, even though we didn’t shoot the ball well,” Rodman said. “Grabbing more rebounds means more chances for us to get baskets, so that’s really what I was focusing on since we weren’t making shots.”

Bamba tied the game at 48 on a 3-pointer with 8:52 remaining, but BSU responded with an 8-0 run. Moments later, Bamba’s free throws closed the gap to 56-54, but the Broncos again answered with a 5-0 burst punctuated by Degenhart’s three-point play.

In the final 2 minutes, Shaver made consecutive driving layups to seal it for the Broncos, pushing the lead to nine with 1:05 to play.

“Their best player made winning plays down the stretch, and we weren’t quite able to do that,” Kyle Smith said.

Sophomore forward Mouhamed Gueye scored 12 points for WSU and Powell added 10. The Cougars resume nonconference play Tuesday, visiting Prairie View A&M.

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