Boise State men’s basketball coach Leon Rice removed starting guard Mikey Thompson from Wednesday’s game against Loyola Marymount with 5 minutes, 2 seconds left.
Thompson hadn’t made a field goal and might have languished on the bench until the game ended.
But for the first time in the fifth-year senior’s career, he asked to go back in the game.
“He had the look,” Rice said. “I’m a feel bettor and we bet on him.”
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Thompson returned to the game with 3:36 to play and delivered the game-winning points on a driving bank shot and free throw for a three-point play.
The Broncos, down four with less than a minute to go, rallied for a 67-66 win in front of 4,151 fans at Taco Bell Arena.
Boise State (6-4) continues its five-game homestand Saturday against No. 24 Oregon.
Thompson said he learned from watching last season’s late-game star, Derrick Marks, and wants that role.
“It was amazing,” Thompson said. “That’s all I can say about it. My teammates ... knew I was going to make a play either for myself or my team. The mindset I’ve had since the beginning of the season is to step up in close games and do what I have to do.”
The Broncos prevailed in a game that featured 12 lead changes. They led by as many as six in the first half and trailed the Lions (5-4) by as many as seven in the second half.
Every time one team went on a run, the other answered.
“I’m really proud of our guys,” Rice said. “A lot of teams down four with 55 seconds left would have hung their head and thought it was over and these guys got it done. ... I told the guys: ‘There’s a lot of different qualities you can have in a team, but to have the quality to figure out how to win close games is the best quality you can have.”
The Broncos led 37-36 at halftime because they were 7-for-14 on 3-pointers. They cooled off in the second half, hitting just 2-of-14.
For the game, they took 28 shots from outside the arc and just 19 from inside the arc. But they were 20-for-29 at the free-throw line — a 15-point edge over the Lions at the line.
“That’s just the style of Loyola,” Rice said. “They’re going to make you make some perimeter shots. They protect the rim pretty good. Where we did a good job of adjusting was ... we put some foul pressure on them. In the second half, we shot 20 free throws. That’s probably the difference in the game.”
The two biggest free throws came from senior guard Montigo Alford, who was dribbling laterally at the top of the key with about 2 seconds on the shot clock when he was bumped. His two freebies cut the LMU lead to 66-64 with 56 seconds left.
On the ensuing possession, officials ruled that Brandon Brown dribbled out of bounds along the baseline with 30 seconds left as Boise State senior Anthony Drmic defended him.
Down two, Thompson drove along the left side of the key, left his feet and banked home his shot as his legs hit a defender in the chest. He added the free throw with 12.7 seconds left for a 67-66 lead.
Thompson finished with six points, one assist and three turnovers. That drive was his only field goal of the night — and probably wouldn’t have happened if he hadn’t spoken up on the bench.
“That was a heck of a play,” Rice said. “He was struggling a little bit. He had only taken (one shot), had three turnovers. He wasn’t playing awful but he wasn’t at his best.”
Brown got a good look at a 3-pointer in the final seconds but missed. The Broncos were content to let him take an outside shot to avoid penetration or a putback.
The win — the Broncos’ second straight in a game that was closer than expected — provides some momentum going into the marquee home game of the season.
“We started out kind of slow. We’re just trying to build up our reputation again,” said junior forward James Webb III, who led the team with 17 points and 10 rebounds and scored seven straight points late in the second half. “Everyone has so much expectation on this season. We have to focus on one game at a time.”
NOTES: True freshman point guard Paris Austin, benched in the previous game, didn’t play. Rice said Austin’s defense wasn’t strong enough to handle the matchup with Brown, who scored a game-high 19 points for LMU. ... Webb has four double-doubles this season. ... Nick Duncan, Drmic, Alford and Lonnie Jackson, who made his first start for the Broncos, each scored 10 points.
Ducks up next
- No. 24 Oregon (7-1) at Boise State (6-4)
- When: 5 p.m. Saturday
- Where: Taco Bell Arena
- TV: CBS Sports Network
- Radio: KBOI (670 AM); Bob Behler and Abe Jackson
- Tickets: Boise State has distributed 9,400 tickets. Most remaining seats are $15 adults. Some pairs remain at $20, only singles available at $25.