BOISE — The Boise State Broncos needed Tuesday's game against Seattle, and they got just what they wanted out of it.
Following two wins in their first two games by a combined 226-140, the Broncos knew the Redhawks would provide a better challenge.
Sure enough, Seattle was within a basket with less than 16 minutes to go before Boise State slowly pulled away for an 86-68 win at Taco Bell Arena.
I knew it was going to be a battle we knew we were going to have our hands full, Boise State coach Leon Rice said.
After the game, Rice told the Broncos (3-0) that games against Division I teams hungry to knock off an NCAA Tournament team like them will often result in some tough battles. He joked, Not all of them are going to be Picassos.
Were not going to score 110 every night, he said.
Even if it wasnt a masterpiece worthy of a place in the Boise State record books, Tuesdays win showed a team that was able to score points even on an off shooting night.
The Broncos hit 25-of-59 shots from the field (42.4 percent), making 9-of-28 3-pointers (32.1 percent). However, they got to the line often, and most of the time cashed in the opportunity, making 27-of-33 free throws four days after missing 13 in a win over Simpson.
Junior Anthony Drmic led Boise State with 25 points, making 14-of-18 free throws while shooting 5-of-15 from the field.
"I couldn't make a shot anywhere else," Drmic said. "As a team, as well, that's definitely a big focus. That helps our team so much because we love to drive and attack, and we have so many free-throw shooters that are going to be shooting 80-90 percent."
Tuesday also showed some of the Broncos' defensive improvement.
Boise State created 17 turnovers, including 13 steals to Seattle's one. Sophomore Mikey Thompson had five steals to go with 16 points in 29 minutes off the bench.
"Mikey Thompson was a stud for them, I thought," Seattle coach Cameron Dollar said. "Hes a guy coming off your bench that is able to break you down and make plays for himself and for others."
The Bronco defense clamped down in crunch time, too. Seattle used an 11-5 run early in the second half to cut Boise State's lead to 46-43 with 15:56 to go. The Broncos then held the Redhawks to 9-of-29 shooting the rest of the way, leading by double digits for the final 7:41.
Senior Jeff Elorriaga had 21 points, and junior Derrick Marks added 10 in the win.
"There's going to be nights when people aren't knocking down shots god forbid Jeff doesn't make a shot, but there's going to be nights like that and we've got to buckle down and defend," Drmic said.
Following some home cooking for the first few weeks of the season, the Broncos head to face New Orleans on Saturday for their first road game, coming at a good time following their best test yet.
"Them scrapping us, playing tough, that's going to help us for road games," Thompson said.
Dave Southorn: 377-6420; Twitter: @IDS_Southorn