AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. Without its glue guy, the Boise State mens basketball team fell apart Saturday afternoon.
Air Force not a program known for its offensive output raced past Boise State 91-80 at Clune Arena. The Broncos were without junior guard and team leader Jeff Elorriaga, who did not travel after suffering a concussion Wednesday against New Mexico.
They were really aggressive and I think they exploited our lack of depth. We got in foul trouble. We got guys tired and we had no depth to guard them, especially the way they were playing, Boise State coach Leon Rice said. That was the most aggressive Ive seen them.
We looked like we were running in sand.
The 91 points were the most ever for Air Force in a Mountain West game.
The Falcons shot 54.4 percent from the field, 50 percent from 3-point range and 91.3 percent from the free throw line. Only Michigan State (57.8 percent) and Utah (67.5) have shot better against the Broncos this season both losses.
The Broncos (13-4, 1-2 Mountain West) have lost two straight for the first time this season.
We werent guarding as well as we should have. They were making a lot of shots, but we werent contesting a lot of shots, said Boise State center Ryan Watkins, who had a career-high 24 points and added 13 rebounds.
Air Force senior guard Michael Lyons did most of the damage. He scored a career-high 37 points to spark the Falcons, who scored just 40 points in a 39-point loss to Colorado State on Wednesday. Lyons made 13-of-18 field goals and all eight free throw attempts. He had 25 in the first half for Air Force (10-6, 2-2).
He lit us up in the first half, Boise State guard Igor Hadziomerovic said.
Said Air Force coach Dave Pilipovich: He had that look in his eye Thursday and Friday. He was this good in practice the last two days.
More than his 3-point shooting Elorriaga is fifth in the nation at 49.1 percent from behind the arc the Broncos were in desperate need of Elorriagas less obvious talents at Air Force. Hadziomerovic called Elorriaga the Broncos glue guy, as Rice often does.
We realized how much we need him. He does all the little things like leading, like playing defense, Watkins said. We needed someone to stop Lyons. I know without a doubt that Jeff would have stopped him tonight.
The Broncos were also without backup center Kenny Buckner, who served the final game of his three-game suspension for violating team rules. That left Rice with limited options when leading scorers Derrick Marks and Anthony Drmic battled first-half foul trouble.
Joe Hanstad, who started in place of Elorriaga, wasnt able to replicate his success from a year ago. Hanstad scored 19 points at Air Force last season. He had three points Saturday. Reserve Mikey Thompson was 1-for-8 from the field.
It left the bulk of the scoring to Watkins, Drmic (19 points, five 3-pointers) and Marks (all 17 points in the second half).
It wasnt enough.
I looked out there one time and we had a bunch of guys hunched over, holding their knees, Rice said. Thats where our rotation has really helped us and I think thats what hurt us (Saturday).
Boise State used an 11-0 run to take a 27-20 lead with eight minutes, 16 seconds left in the first half. But Air Force outscored the Broncos 27-10 the rest of the half and extended its edge to as many as 22 points in the second half.
We knew we could either go two ways, Lyons said after the drubbing by rival Colorado State earlier in the week. We could go up or down. We definitely didnt want to go down.
Rice expected the veteran Falcons, who start four seniors, to regroup. Now he wants to see the same kind of effort from his squad. Buckner returns for Fresno State on Wednesday. Elorriaga is day-to-day, but the Broncos promise to be cautious with a concussion.
They looked like a veteran team. We looked like a bunch of rookies, Rice said. Were trying to weather a tough storm here. The teams that can hang together and keep battling are the ones that are going to be there in the end.
Brian Murphy: 377-6444, Twitter: @MurphsTurph