LARAMIE, Wyo. In his 39th minute of game action Wednesday night, Boise State junior Jeff Elorriaga made two of the biggest 3-pointers of his career to save his shorthanded Broncos in their Mountain West opener.
Elorriagas 3-pointer from the left corner as time expired gave Boise State a 63-61 victory at previously undefeated Wyoming in front of 6,416 at Arena-Auditorium. He hit another 3-pointer 30 seconds earlier.
That was my first game-winner and I couldnt be happier it was now, said Elorriaga, who entered the game eighth in the nation in 3-point shooting percentage.
Elorriagas game-winner capped a wild game and a wild few days for the Broncos. Coach Leon Rice suspended leading scorer Derrick Marks, key reserves Mikey Thompson and Kenny Buckner, and backup big man Darrious Hamilton on Tuesday before practice and before the team traveled to Wyoming. None of the four practiced Tuesday as Boise State readied a new gameplan and rotation.
Rice said he will evaluate the status of the four players Thursday.
For me, heartbreaking. It was one of the hardest decisions Ive ever had to make, Rice said. We have a young team and were building a program. So one game is not as important as the future of our program. We dont compromise on not doing it right.
The suspensions left the Broncos with just nine players on the bench, including former Melba High star Joey Nebeker, who is redshirting this season.
Boise State played seven players and Elorriaga played all 40 minutes. The Broncos walked the ball up to the front court, rather than run as is their custom, a nod to their short bench and the 7,220 feet of altitude.
Walk-on Jake Ness played 17 big minutes for the Broncos behind starting center Ryan Watkins, who battled foul trouble.
Boise State (13-2, 1-0 MW) led 31-26 at halftime, but Wyoming (13-1, 0-1 MW) scored the first eight points of the second half. The Cowboys extended the lead to 45-35 on two free throws after a technical foul on Boise State assistant coach Jeff Linder with 11 minutes, 28 seconds left.
It was backs against the wall. All the cliches apply there, Rice said. ... We had many chances to fold out here.
The technical sparked the Broncos, who outscored Wyoming 22-5 over the next nine minutes. Boise State led 57-50 after a steal and layup by Thomas Bropleh.
But Wyoming star Leonard Washington brought the Cowboys back. After two free throws by Riley Grabau, Washington made a 3-pointer, stole the ball and dunked it and then drew a charge to get Wyoming the ball back with the score tied at 57-57.
Grabau made two free throws, then Elorriaga made the first of his last-minute 3-pointers. Josh Adams then gave Wyoming the lead at 61-60 with 9.1 seconds remaining to set up Elorriagas shot.
I felt like two or three times we won this game, Wyoming coach Larry Shyatt said.
Igor Hadziomerovic raced the ball down the right side of the court and did a quick exchange with Joe Hanstad. Hadziomerovic then found Elorriaga near the left corner and the sharpshooter knocked down his sixth 3-pointer in 10 attempts on the night.
It felt a little left. Then it started rolling around and went down and I saw the buzzer go off, Elorriaga said. And I couldnt hold my excitement down. Im just glad it went through the hoop.
Brian Murphy: 377-6444,Twitter: @MurphsTurph