Alston layup

Boise State’s Derrick Alston Jr. scores on a layup Saturday night against San Jose State at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix. The Broncos escaped with a 87-86 win.

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It wasn’t the way the Boise State men’s basketball team planned it out, but the end result was the same.

Two days after beating San Jose State by 52 points, the Broncos needed a shot in the final seconds from Abu Kigab on Saturday to escape with a 87-86 win against the same Spartans team.

But as ugly and scary as Saturday’s game was, the Broncos head home from Phoenix with the mission accomplished: Two more wins.

“How do you like them apples?” a relieved Boise State coach Leon Rice said. “Isn’t that college basketball? Isn’t that crazy? A lot of people were surprised by a 52-point win and a one-point win — well we won by 53 in the two games, so that’s good.”

Derrick Alston Jr. had 20 points and 10 rebounds and had three huge baskets down the stretch. Boise State had six players in double figures for the second straight game to hold off a crazy shooting display from San Jose State.

Marcus Shaver Jr. had 15 points, Kigab had 13, RayJ Dennis had 12, Max Rice had 10 and Mladen Armus had 10 points for the Broncos, who trailed twice in the final minute.

Boise State trailed 81-80 when Alston scored on a driving layup with 1:33 left to give the Broncos a 82-81 lead. After San Jose State went back in front, Alston scored and was fouled and hit the ensuing free throw to give the Broncos an 85-83 lead with 53 seconds left.

Richard Washington, who went a ridiculous 7 for 11 from 3-point range in the second half, connected from the corner with 37 seconds left to put the Spartans back in front 86-85.

Kigab then made the play of the game, hustling to grab an offense rebound on a missed shot from Akot. He dribbled into the lane and pulled up for a 10-footer to put the Broncos ahead 87-86 with 14.6 seconds left.

“I was just focused on winning and once I saw the shot up I put myself in position to rebound and thank God I got it and I made the simple play and hit the shot,” Kigab said. “It shows our character. Guys really wanted this game. It didn’t go how we expected it to, but that’s OK. It’s basketball and it happens. I love how we fought and how we responded and we’re just going to keep getting better from this.”

But the game wasn’t over yet. San Jose State still had the ball and plenty of time, and the Spartans had been shooting lights out all game. Washington got the ball as expected, but Akot played great defense at the top of the key and his contested shot missed as time expired.

“He had it going tonight, he’s a great shooter and we knew that,” Alston said. “We knew it was going to be a play for him and Emmanuel took that challenge and played really solid defense and forced him into a tough shot and we were able to get the rebound and walk away with the one-point win.”

San Jose State (1-6) shot less than 24 percent in Thursday’s 106-54 loss, but shot 50.9 percent Saturday — including 14 of 27 from 3-point range — to give themselves a chance. The Spartans also benefited by the debut of transfer Jalen Dalcourt, who had 23 points.

Boise State (8-1) has won eight games in a row since a season-opening loss to now-No. 5 Houston. Included are two games that were decided in the final seconds — a 74-70 road win at BYU and Saturday’s nailbiter against the Spartans.

The Broncos were favored by 27 points Saturday so barely escaping will do little to impress folks nationally. But for a team that remains tied atop the Mountain West standings with Utah State at 4-0, finding a way to win could have a huge payoff down the road.

Boise State made six of its final eight shots in the final six minutes, and one of the two misses was rebounded and put back in by Kigab for the game-winner. The Broncos have lost plenty of close games like that in recent years, but Saturday made plenty of winning plays down the stretch to avoid a disastrous loss.

“That’s what championship teams do, they have to win these,” Rice said. “That’s what great teams do and what these guys showed. It was just a weird game. You have those nights where the ball doesn’t bounce your way. We had a two-on-one break and Shaver has a layin and he drops it out of bounds, it slips out of his hand. We had that stuff happening all night, but we hung with it and hung together and found a way.

“I’m really proud of our guys. The world makes them feel like if you don’t win by 60 you didn’t play good. I knew it wasn’t going to be like that. ... You don’t get style points. I know we’ve looked so dominant in a lot of these games, but you’re going to have games like this. I mean they banged in 14 3s. Hopefully we can just leave this as an anomaly and not revisit this one again.”

Boise State will be back in action Wednesday against Air Force at ExtraMile Arena. Tip off on FS1 is set for 9 p.m.

B.J Rains has covered Boise State athletics for the Idaho Press since 2013. He is an Associated Press Top 25 men's basketball poll voter, and also contributes to KBOI-TV as a Boise State insider.

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