The Boise State mens basketball team needed a break.
The Broncos were blown out at Utah on Dec. 5, their third consecutive road game and fourth in five contests a span that included a close loss at Michigan State and a bandwagon-building victory at Creighton.
Fatigue kind of set in during that last game. We really dropped an egg against Utah, guard Jeff Elorriaga said. I dont think we prepared as well as we should have at the end of the trip.
So a nine-day respite before Friday nights game with undefeated LSU (6-0) is exactly what the Broncos (6-2) needed.
Tip-off is at 7 p.m. at Taco Bell Arena.
We needed some time off. We were mentally tired and we were physically tired, too, coach Leon Rice said. Im happy that we did get the break. We got our legs back, got our legs under us and got some normalcy in our practice schedule.
Energy shouldnt be a problem Friday night. Not with an expected crowd of more than 10,000. Not with an undefeated Southeastern Conference team playing in Boise. Not with the memory of last years game against the Tigers still alive for most of the Broncos players.
LSU, with former Boise State player Trent Johnson coaching, routed the Broncos 64-45 in Baton Rouge. Boise State set season lows in points, field goals made (17) and free throws made (four).
Its a learning experience, sophomore guard Derrick Marks said.
First-year coach Johnny Jones, who played for LSUs 1981 Final Four team, has the Tigers off to their best start since 2008-09, when they won the SEC regular season. Forward Johnny OBryant III has three consecutive double-doubles and is averaging 13.6 points and a team-high 9.0 rebounds per game.
The Tigers are one of 14 undefeated Division I teams in the nation, out of 345. But Fridays game will be the Tigers first away from home.
Their wins are against UC Santa Barbara, McNeese State, Northwestern State, Mississippi Valley State, Seton Hall and Chattanooga.
This is an ideal trip for us in preparing us for a tough SEC. I think (Boise State) in terms of their crowd and the atmosphere that they will have there will be similar to what we will face in the conference, Jones said. This is a great challenge for us, and I think it is going to help us.
And it will be a great challenge for Boise State, which is 0-3 all-time against SEC opponents, including losses to Vanderbilt (92-72 in the 1993 NCAA Tournament) and Arkansas (72-56 in 1975).
This season, LSU leads the nation in steals, averaging 13.0 per game.
Theyre always poking and punching at the ball. They have very active hands and are really, really quick, Rice said.
The Broncos, undefeated at home this season, are eager to prove to the large crowd that their early-season success is something real.
We love playing in front of those big crowds. Any player would love that, Elorriaga said. The community is supporting us. Hopefully we can give them a good show.
Freshman forward Edmunds Dukulis will miss the entire season after the NCAA ruled that he played in too many professional games overseas. Dukulis, a native of Latvia, was not paid for playing. The 6-foot-9, 225-pounder will have three seasons of eligibility left, starting next season. It hurts us this year. We need that extra body. Hes big, strong, physical, aggressive, Rice said. He was crushed. I was holding out for a Christmas miracle.
LSU point guard Anthony Hickey, suspended since Dec. 7, will make the trip to Boise, but his status is uncertain. LSU starting guard Charles Carmouche (knee) is probable after missing the second half of the Tigers victory against Chattanooga.
Boise State has distributed 10,060 tickets (tickets sold plus student tickets) for the game. The last time Boise State drew more than 10,000 fans at home was Feb. 12, 2011, against Idaho (12,193). Boise State won 69-63. The Broncos have had just five home crowds larger than 10,000 since 2000.
Much of the west stadium lot will be unavailable due to set-up for Saturdays Famous Idaho Potato Bowl at Bronco Stadium. Fans are encouraged to arrive early to avoid parking and ticket pick-up problems. To avoid lines, fans are encouraged to use Gates 3 and 4. Arena doors open at 6 p.m.
The Broncos are encouraging an orange out for the game.
Brian Murphy: 377-6444