BOISE — With the shot clock ticking down and Evansville gaining momentum, Boise State set up a shot as rare as three-dollar bill.

In their quarterfinal matchup with the Purple Aces on Monday in the College Basketball Invitational, the Broncos were nursing a 59-56 lead with 2 minutes, 52 seconds to play when 6-foot-8 freshman Ryan Watkins nailed a long two-pointer from the corner.

Evansville never got back within three again as the Broncos moved to the semifinals in the CBI.

“If he didn’t wear a size 18, that would’ve been a 3-pointer,” Boise State coach Leon Rice said.

Watkins scored a career-best 18 points for the Broncos (22-12) in the win, and also had a game-high eight rebounds. He dropped another long jump shot with 1:48 to go, two of his eight points in the final 5:15, but it was that near-3-pointer that took back the momentum for Boise State.

“Everything kind of felt good,” said Watkins, who added that he had not made a shot like it all season. “Nothing was going through my mind. The shot clock was winding down, so I just had to shoot it.”

Boise State’s win marks the fifth-most in a single season in school history and also is just the second time the Broncos have won two postseason games. The Broncos will travel to Oregon on Wednesday to face the Ducks for a shot at the finals. Oregon defeated Duquesne 77-75 on Monday. The game is scheduled to start at 8 p.m. MST and to be broadcats on HDNet.

It will be the 35th game of the 2010-11 season for Boise State, which will set the school mark.

“I’m ready to keep playing, if we play (today), I’d be ready,” senior forward Daequon Montreal said.

It was the inside tandem of the freshman Watkins and Montreal that helped the Broncos live another day. Montreal added 14 points and seven rebounds, while the duo combined to shoot 13-of-18 from the field and 10-of-11 from the free-throw line.

The Broncos outrebounded the Purple Aces 29-21 after they had been dominated by Austin Peay last week on the boards (42-26).

“Instead of sitting back and watching them, which we did too much against Austin (Peay), this week, we emphasized rebounding and we went out and did that,” Montreal said.

After shooting a paltry 23.5 percent (4-of-17) in the first half, Evansville (16-16) trailed 30-23 at the half, but stormed back, making 18-of-30 second-half shots, tying it at 52-52 with 7:50 to go. Boise State kept the Purple Aces at bay with 13-of-15 free-throw shooting the rest of the way.

Watkins had a block and five of his rebounds in that stretch. The freshman is averaging 12 points per game in the Broncos’ four games since the regular season ended.

“He played probably the best game of his career here and he’s getting better and better,” Rice said. “... He’s got a nice, soft touch. As he grows, his game’s going to expand to more of that.”

As seven seniors have carried the Broncos for much of this season, it was a freshman that wound up being the one that helped Boise State to within one game of the CBI finals.

“He shows up with a smile on his face and ready to go to work and I’m glad it’s paying off for him,” Montreal said.

Boise State 75, Evansville 69

EVANSVILLE (16-16) — Harris 5-7 5-7 16, Holmes 4-5 4-4 13, van Tongeren 1-2 0-0 2, Lacey 1-5 2-2 5, Ryan 3-9 2-3 10, Peeler 0-0 0-0 0, Jones 0-1 0-0 0, Taylor 0-1 2-2 2, Jahr 2-4 0-0 4, Cox 6-11 2-4 17, Hopf 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 22-47 17-22 69.

BOISE ST. (22-12) — Arnold 2-4 0-0 5, Montreal 5-9 4-4 14, Watkins 6-9 6-7 18, Elorriaga 0-3 0-0 0, Anderson 1-4 9-12 11, Nichols 0-1 0-0 0, Bropleh 2-2 2-2 8, Imadiyi 0-1 0-0 0, Noonan 1-2 2-2 5, Perryman 3-6 4-5 10, Moritz 2-2 0-0 4. Totals 22-43 27-32 75.

Halftime — Boise St. 30-23. 3-Point Goals — Evansville 8-15 (Cox 3-5, Ryan 2-5, Holmes 1-1, Harris 1-1, Lacey 1-1, Jahr 0-2), Boise St. 4-14 (Bropleh 2-2, Noonan 1-2, Arnold 1-2, Nichols 0-1, Perryman 0-2, Anderson 0-2, Elorriaga 0-3). Fouled Out — Jahr. Rebounds — Evansville 21 (Hopf 6), Boise St. 29 (Watkins 8). Assists — Evansville 10 (Lacey 4), Boise St. 14 (Anderson 6). Total Fouls — Evansville 26, Boise St. 20. A — 5,913.

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