BOISE — Mladen Armus stood above the table looking down at the stat sheet as he got ready for a press conference after Boise State’s 72-60 win against Santa Clara on Tuesday.
“You can take a seat,” teammate Tyson Degenhart joked.
Don’t blame the 6-foot-10 forward for not wanting to sit down just yet. He had been standing tall all night for Boise State.
The senior scored 17 points to go with 12 rebounds, his second double-double of the season, doing most of his damage during the second half as Boise State picked up its fourth win in a row, following a tough three-game losing streak.
“After we got with those losses, we just got up and kept fighting,” Armus said. “We got up stronger and decided we would not give up on this season. We decided to keep fighting and fighting and get tougher every game so we can have a great season. We have talented guys, tough guys who are amazing to play with.”
Armus became the sixth player for Boise State (7-4) to score at least 15 points in a game during its current win streak, as he was also joined Tuesday by Degenhart, who scored 18 points, and Abu Kigab, who scored 16.
“That’s kind of what we envisioned for this team,” Boise State coach Leon Rice said about the scoring versatility. “I know the one thing we are doing is we’re getting a lot better. We’re a lot better now than we were three weeks ago, or two weeks ago, even. That’s what you want as a team.”
Boise State certainly got better Tuesday as the night went on. Boise State took a three-point halftime deficit and scored 45 points in the second half, keeping visiting Santa Clara off the board for the final six minutes of the game, save for a goaltending call at the end.
After jumping out to a 21-9 lead in the first half, Boise State started struggling offensively for the remainder of the first half, at one point missing nine straight field goals.
Santa Clara used that drought to go on an 18-2 run to retake the lead. Boise State trialed 30-27 at halftime after a shot by Emmanuel Akot was initially ruled good before overturned on a video review for coming out of his hands after the buzzer.
Boise State was 0 for 9 from 3-point range in the first half.
“We were a little down, but we knew we had another 20 minutes to play,” said Degenhart. “We came out and I think we played really well in the second half.”
By contrast, Boise State was 5 for 8 from 3-point range in the second half, but also got help from its big man down low.
Armus had eight points in the first four minutes of the second half, helping Boise State keep pace with Santa Clara, which also started the second half with an offense on fire. He scored 11 of his points and pulled down eight of his rebounds in the final 20 minutes.
“He’s getting confidence and playing with great authority down there,” Rice said about Armus. “He’s just dominant physically and it’s so nice to have a guy that can do that and just battle through stuff and get hit. Both teams were playing really hard and he was able to finish through a lot of contact.”
The two teams stayed within reach of each other until a 3-pointer by Kigab gave Boise State a 58-56 lead with just over eight minutes left in the game. And after a traveling violation by Santa Clara, Degenhart made a basket on the other end to extend Boise State’s lead to four points.
Boise State didn’t let go of the lead the rest of the game, as Santa Clara’s offense struggled to find the basket down the stretch. Santa Clara had a basket with 6:28 left to cut Boise State’s lead to 60-58, but Boise State held Santa Clara without a point until a goaltending call with 29 seconds on the clock.
Boise State scored 12 straight points between those two baskets, as Santa Clara missed nine consecutive shots. In all four games during Boise State’s winning streak, it has held its opponents to 60 points or less.
“That is one of our strongest characteristics of this team this season,” Armus said. “We take a lot of pride in our defense and try to stop the opponents as much as we can. That wins games.”
Boise State will host NAIA Montana Tech on Sunday before wrapping up its nonconference slate on Dec. 22 at Washington State.