LOGAN, Utah — This arena is infamous in the lore of Boise State basketball.
Five years ago, Nick Duncan flashed his middle finger at the Utah State student section, a raucous group that can get under opponent’s skin better than a needle.
That was the last time — Dec. 28, 2016, to be exact — Boise State had won in Logan.
On Thursday night, Marcus Shaver Jr. flashed something at that same student section. The Boise State senior walked off the court and looked up at the mass of humanity – the ones wearing banana costumes and holding up Spongebob posters and yelling “Daddy’s Boy” at Max Rice – and flashed his pearly whites.
They were silent. All because Shaver shut them up.
Of all the characters to provide Thursday’s signature moment, the live odds on Shaver would have been astronomical. As the seconds waned in Boise State’s 62-59 win over Utah State, the Broncos’ leading scorer had zero points. He had hucked up 10 shots and missed them all.
“I’ve seen it a lot. I always tell these guys that great players can miss 10 in a row,” said Boise State coach Leon Rice, “but they’ll make their eleventh.”
Shaver’s 11th shot of the night came from the top of the key. He dribbled left on Utah State guard Steven Ashworth and rose up. The ball fell through the strings with 1.7 seconds to play.
The guy who couldn’t make a shot made the only shot that mattered. And with it, he got to look up at that crowd with a smile.
“I just told them to go home,” Shaver said. “They were talking crazy the whole game.”
With the victory, the Broncos' win streak moves to 11 — now only behind the 13-game run Boise State put together last season. For most of the game, though, it looked like the streak would end at 10, that Rice’s team would suffer its first Mountain West loss.
Early in the second half, as Utah State started to expand on a lead that got as high as 10, Boise State forward Naje Smith inched toward the paint, backing down Utah State’s Justin Bean dribble by dribble. And either Smith’s backside barreled into Bean or the Mountain West Player of the Year candidate should be an Oscar candidate, too.
Bean fell back, slamming into the hardwood. The referee under the basket blew on his whistle and gave the charge motion. Bean hopped to his feet, let out a yell to the heavens and high-fived the students in the front row.
Bean’s energy, his 14 points and dozen rebounds were all impressive. The Aggies’ top player — with his fist pumps and cheering section — was flashy. But Boise State big man Mladen Armus was better. Sometimes it’s easy top forget about Armus. He is, perhaps, the Bizzaro Bean. Rugged beard. Loose jersey. Little emotion.
But the senior from Serbia was a bully in the paint, scoring a game-high 22 points while grabbing 19 boards. He was the Bean’s kryptonite on Thursday night, the guy who rolled in the mud so Shaver even had a chance to provide the night’s miracle.
“Mladen does it on both ends for us. He’s so valuable and I’m so happy for him,” Rice said. “He almost got a 20-20 tonight. Not a double-double. It’s impressive.”
Indeed, it was Armus’ best game since he transferred to Boise State in 2019. Ironically, the season Armus sat out, the Broncos played in Logan. Not in uniform, the big man was forced to sit at the end of the bench, the end closest to the cheering that begins to sound like nails on a chalkboard.
“I was like, ‘When I come back, I have to be my best,” Armus thought.
On Thursday, he was — and he walked out of The Spectrum with a smile.
“Unbelievable man,” he said.