Boise, ID – The Boise State Broncos took on the New Mexico Lobos in the first Mountain West conference matchup for both teams on Monday night. The Lobos came into the contest undefeated at 3-0 while the Broncos were 4-1.
A strong second half by the Broncos and stint of 15 unanswered points proved to be too much for the Lobos. The final score of the contest was 77-53 with Boise State taking the victory. Four players were in double-figures for the Broncos as they shot a solid 58 percent from the field on the night. The Broncos also found a lot of success in transition and scoring off turnovers, where they finished with 18 fastbreak points and 13 points off turnovers. The Broncos perimeter defense wreaked havoc in the passing lanes, leading the Broncos to 10 steals in total.
With the superb perimeter defense of Boise State, New Mexico struggled to generate offense in this contest, totaling only a 34 percent field goal percentage. They also went 10-of-19 at the free throw stripe, leaving multiple points. A bright spot for the Lobos was their bench production, where they received 29 points from their reserves.
Boise State was very efficient in the first half, shooting over 60 percent in the half. They did so scoring 22 points in the paint and attacking from the post, fast break and cutting opportunities in the half-court. A lot of these points came off the turnovers the Broncos forced, resulting in seven points total in the first half. Boise State got key contributions this half from Emmanuel Akot and Derrick Alston Jr.. Akot finished the first half with four points, four assists and four rebounds while Alston Jr. had nine points. The Broncos took a 10-point lead (36-26) into the half.
The perimeter play of the Broncos proved to be a handful for New Mexico. Akot, the former Arizona transfer, had his fingerprints all over this game totaling 12 points, eight rebounds, four assists, two blocks and one steal. His versatility was evident in this contest on both sides of the ball. Offensively, Akot is a natural passing the ball. Whether it is finding teammates in transition through long outlet passes or finding cutters in the half-court, Akot has a niche for finding the open man. He also is a solid ball-handler and slasher, which adds to his value as a playmaker. Tightening his handle will allow him to take over even more ball-handling duties for the Broncos as the season progresses. Defensively, Akot used his great length and athleticism to make an impact on this game. He had multiple deflections in this contest due to his ability to anticipate passing lanes and showed great quickness when anticipating these passes. Akot showed all the tools to be a great defender with anticipation, lateral quickness and length.
Alston Jr. was also fantastic in this contest, especially on offense. He converted multiple opportunities in transition due to his verticality and finishing ability. He plays above the rim and has great length to go along with his 6-9 frame, which makes him a handful around the basket. He also showed his ability to knock down jump shots, especially in catch and shoot scenarios, where he finished 3-of-5 from the three-point line. Alston Jr. finished with 20 points, six rebounds and three assists. Alston Jr. is arguably the best pro prospect on this Broncos team due to his athletic profile and scoring ability.
To round off the perimeter trio for the Broncos, starting point guard Rayj Dennis was nothing short of spectacular. Dennis played a great floor game setting up his teammates with five assists and also scored 16 points. He was also very efficient shooting 7-of-11 from the field, and scored the ball in a variety of ways, such as floaters, threes and layups around the basket. Dennis may not be the most polarizing prospect on this team due to his 6-2, 180-pound frame, but he plays with great pace, knows how to change speeds and is a capable scorer from all three levels. Look for Dennis to break out in his sophomore campaign with the Broncos.
For the Lobos, they had some perimeter firepower of their own, with those players being forward Makuach Maluach and Saquan Singleton. Maluach finished with 12 points and three rebounds. Maluach displayed his scoring package, scoring from all three levels. He had some mid-range pull ups, showed off his quick first step getting to the rim and finishing, and hit a corner three in the contest. Maluach looks to be a promising player due to his scoring abilities and his athletic profile, which consists of him being 6-5 with a 6-11 wingspan. Maluach is looking to take a huge step forward in his senior season after averaging around 10 points per game the last three seasons. A higher usage rate is looking to be heading his way due to a Lobos team adding a lot of newcomers to the roster.
Singleton, a transfer from Hutchinson Community College, showed some versatility in the contest playing both guard spots and guarding multiple positions. He finished with five points, four rebounds and three assists. Singleton did a solid job of slashing to the basket and showing his quickness off the dribble. He attacks the basket with force and does not mind contact. However, to become a better offensive player, he must continue to improve his jumper, where he only went 1-of-5 at the free throw line and is shooting 55 percent for the season. He also is yet to hit a three in New Mexico’s first four games. Overall, Singleton has appeal as a versatile playmaker and slasher, but must improve his shooting to take the next step as an offensive player.
Boise State (5-1,1-0) will play New Mexico again on Wednesday, December 23rd. The Lobos (3-1, 0-1) will look to split the series and get their first conference win of the season.