Facebook Twitter

Boise State’s Marcus Shaver Jr. nails last-second shot to sink Utah State

SHARE Boise State’s Marcus Shaver Jr. nails last-second shot to sink Utah State
Boise State guard Marcus Shaver Jr. and forward Naje Smith smile and celebrate

Boise State guard Marcus Shaver Jr. (10) and forward Naje Smith celebrate after the team’s win over Utah State in an NCAA college basketball game Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022, in Logan, Utah

Eli Lucero/The Herald Journal via Associated Press

It took an extra 16 days and 39-plus minutes, but Boise State’s Marcus Shaver Jr. came through in the end.

The senior guard knocked down a 3-pointer with 1.7 seconds left to lift the Broncos to a 62-59 victory over Utah State Thursday night at the Spectrum. It was the one and only field goal of the night for BSU’s leading scorer, who missed the first 10 shots of the contest, which was postponed from its original date of Jan. 4 due to COVID-19 issues in the Broncos’ program. 

“When I subbed Shaver out that last time, he hadn’t made a shot yet,” Boise State head coach Leon Rice said. “I told him, ‘You’re going to make the next one.’ And he’s that kind of kid. When that ball was in his hands, I called the play for him and the ball was in, I knew that was going in because I’ve seen that before.”

The win was the 11th in a row for the first-place Broncos (5-0 in the Mountain West, 14-4 overall), who haven’t been beaten since an overtime loss to Saint Louis on Nov. 30. 

Conversely, the Aggies (10-9, 1-5) have now lost four straight games and six of their last eight contests, almost all of them by a narrow margin. 

“Hard-fought game,” USU head coach Ryan Odom declared. “Obviously, it was kind of a knockdown, drag-out game throughout. I was really proud of the guys and their effort, coming off of a short turnaround like that. Playing at Fresno State, playing really well in the first half offensively, and then obviously falling short there is a difficult thing.”

Utah State senior forward Justin Bean led the way for the Aggies with 14 points and 12 rebounds, while senior guard RJ Eytle-Rock also scored 14 points. It was the first game back for Eytle-Rock, who missed two games while battling the coronavirus. 

Eytle-Rock’s solid performance off the bench was crucial for the Aggies, who were without Rylan Jones. Odom said the junior guard sustained a concussion early in Tuesday’s loss at Fresno State, but that he should be back soon despite not even being on the bench Thursday night. 

With Jones out and senior guard Brock Miller still sidelined by back issues, only eight Aggies played in the loss. Overall, Utah State continued to struggle from 3-point range (4 for 18), while shooting just 38.5% from the field. 

The Aggies also lost the rebound battle to the Broncos 43-38, primarily due to formidable presence of Boise State forward Mladen Armus. The 6-foot-10 senior from Serbia pulled down a season-high 19 rebounds — 10 of them on the offensive glass — while also putting up a season-best 22 points and causing Utah State all sorts of trouble in the paint defensively. 

“He’s a beast. That guy’s a beast,” Odom said of Armus. “He had 10 (offensive rebounds) in another game, and he had six at the half tonight. He’s a problem in there. He just waits down there in and around the rim. When the ball comes off, he’s got a great nose for the ball and he’s physical.”

Boise State, which also got 15 points from senior forward Abu Kigab and 11 from senior guard Emmanuel Akot, pulled the win despite shooting just 40% from the field as a team. 

The Aggies, though, ended up losing their fourth straight conference game for the first time since the 2017-18 season after leading by as many as 10 points in the first half, 30-24 at halftime and for the majority of the second half. 

“Tough. That’s the word to describe tonight,” said USU guard Steven Ashworth, who contributed nine points and four assists while playing all 40 minutes. “We fought. I think our toughness as a team was much better than what it’s been and that’s part of our goal is to continue to be a tough out. 

“Going down the stretch we knew we had winning plays to make and we came up short on a few. Credit to them. They made their shots when they needed to and the ball bounced their way at the end there.“

The Aggies took a 59-56 lead into the final minute of the game, but Akot and Shaver both knocked down 3-pointers in the last 51 seconds after Boise State had gone a combined 3 for 18 from long range up until that point. Shaver’s dagger came from nearly the same spot on the floor as Akot’s, as he elevated, turned and buried a difficult shot when it mattered the most.

“Steven’s defense was fabulous tonight against Shaver,” Odom declared. “(Shaver) ended up making the winning basket, but he couldn’t get one off before that and the ones that he got off weren’t great looks because Steven’s right there the entire time.”

After Shaver’s shot went in, the Aggies called a timeout to set up a final shot, followed by Boise State calling a timeout and USU another one. Ultimately, USU forward Brandon Horvath ran the baseline and attempted to connect on a long pass to Eytle-Rock near half court. He ended up colliding with Kigab in mid-air along the sideline, but nothing was called and Bean’s wild 3-pointer attempt came after the final buzzer.

“What a ballgame,” Rice said. “And this team (USU) has been so competitive, but they’ve just lost a lot of heartbreakers. They’re a really good basketball team, great players, so well-coached. We were in a dogfight, and we knew that going in.”

The Aggies now have nearly a week off to try and regroup before returning to action on Jan. 26 when they host San Diego State.