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BOISE — This time, the free throw shooting came up clutch for the Boise State men’s basketball team.

After nearly three full games of struggles from the free-throw line during its homestand, Boise State seemed to figure things out late, making 6 of its 8 attempts in the final four minutes to beat Tulsa 63-58.

“We just kept shooting them,” said Abu Kigab, who made 3 of his 4 down the stretch after making just 1 of his first 4 and finished with 17 points. “Free throws are all mental. When you go up to that line, you got to empty your mind. We’ve shot free throws thousands of times, so it’s about muscle memory. Don’t think about it, and money.”

The win let Boise State finish its three-game homestand on a positive note after dropping the first two games, against CSU Bakersfield and Saint Louis.

“It’s hard to win one game in college basketball, no matter who you’re playing,” said Boise State coach Leon Rice. “Especially this year, it seems. I remember the days you’d see one upset every two weeks, now it’s four a night. I think there’s a lot of good teams out there, a lot of good coaches, a lot of good players. That’s a team, when you talk about Tulsa, two years ago they won the AAC, last year they beat Memphis twice. (Tulsa coach) Frank (Haith) knows what he’s doing.”

Boise State (4-4) entered the game with the second-worst free throw percentage in the country, and while an 8 for 16 day won’t do much to improve that stat, it’s what they did down the stretch that helped them win the game.

Kigab hit a pair of free throws with under four minutes to go to tie the game at 56-56. After Marcus Shaver gave Boise State a 59-58 lead with a 3-pointer, both Kigab and Shaver made 1 of 2 free throws before Max Rice iced the game by sinking two with under five seconds left.

“We made the ones that mattered,” Leon Rice said. “We did some stuff the last few days to get their minds right, and we’re going to get better. In the end, Abu Kigab is going to shoot 75% from the line, maybe even more.”

For Boise State, it not overcame free throw struggles early, but turnover issues as well. The Broncos committed 15 turnovers in the first half and 24 for the entire game, which was the most turnovers committed in 12 years with Rice as the coach.

But the Broncos also outrebounded the Golden Hurricane (4-4) 34-21, with nine of their rebounds coming on the offensive side of the court.

“I was just trying to get the ball before anyone else,” said Shaver, who had eight rebounds to go with 17 points and seven assists. “I was just hitting my guy, I know they crash hard and get a lot of (offensive rebounds), so I just tried to crack my guy before he got the ball.”

There was also the defensive effort by the Broncos and that allowed Boise State to finish the game on a 14-2 run over the final five minutes. Curtis Haywood hit a layup with 4:59 left to give Tulsa a 56-49 advantage, but an Emmanuel Akot 3-pointer on the other end sparked Boise State’s run.

Meanwhile, the Broncos held Tulsa to 1 for 10 from the field down the stretch, as the Golden Hurricane missed their final eight shots of the game.

“To be able to have a defense, that’s how you win those games,” Rice said. “It gets you through bad shooting nights, it gets you through tough breaks, it gets you through all that stuff. Eventually the shots start going down, and that’s what happened tonight.”

The biggest defensive play may have come with under two minutes to go, with Boise State holding on to a 59-58 lead. Akot blocked a layup attempt by Anthony Pritchard and following an offensive rebound freshman, Tyson Degenhart blocked a shot attempt by Jeriah Horne, who led Tulsa with 17 points.

Degenhart finished with 11 points, three rebounds and two blocks, making his second career start. Degenhart was starting in the place of Devonaire Doutrive, who a Boise State spokesperson confirmed before the game was no longer a member of the team.

Doutrive came off the bench in Tuesday’s loss to Saint Louis after starting the first six games for the Broncos.

“I’m not going to look back at all, and I’m not going to speak anything bad about Devonaire,” Rice said. “It is what it is. The focus is now we’ve got a freshman who’s up to speed, he’s getting his feet wet and he’s going to get better, better and better.”

Akot finished with 12 points.

John Wustrow is the assistant sports editor of the Idaho Press. He is a Michigan native and a graduate of Indiana University.

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