Boise State is one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the nation.
On Wednesday against the Idaho Vandals at CenturyLink Arena, the Broncos didnt need the long ball.
Driving the lane relentlessly from the get-go, Boise State scored each of its first 16 field goals inside the paint. The Broncos won for the fifth straight time in the rivalry, beating Idaho 98-89 after a furious, late Vandal comeback fell short in front of an announced crowd of 5,747.
Junior guard Derrick Marks had a career-high 39 points for the Broncos, making a Boise State-record 21 free throws on 23 attempts.
The coaches told everybody to get the ball to me, because I normally make my free throws and I kept making them, said Marks, whose Broncos own a 53-35 all-time edge over the Vandals.
Coming into Wednesdays nonconference matchup, Boise State (5-0) was third in the nation with 11.8 3-pointers per game and eighth with a 46.5 shooting percentage from 3-point range.
Against the Vandals (3-4), the Broncos made 2-of-7 3-pointers, their fewest in a game since Feb. 29, 2012. They didnt hit a 3-pointer until Anthony Drmic, who finished with 21 points, drained one with 13 minutes to play to take a 61-44 lead. Senior Jeff Elorriaga came into the contest making a national-best six 3-pointers per game, but missed his only attempt Wednesday.
We were going to try to take Jeff out, Idaho coach Don Verlin said. We definitely wanted to get that 3-point number down. We did some of that. Those were really good things, but we didnt do a very good job of keeping those guys in front of us and then didnt do a very good job of not fouling them.
The game plan to keep the Broncos away from the perimeter was anticipated.
This whole week, wed just been preaching to keep driving, because we shoot so many 3s, we have to keep the defense on its toes, Marks said.
For most of the game, Boise States sharp-shooting guards spread the floor and attacked the basket, getting a layup, a foul or finding senior forward Ryan Watkins open down low. Watkins had 16 points (all in the first half) and 14 rebounds. Boise State finished with 54 points in the paint and shot 55.4 percent from the field overall (31-of-56).
We didnt take that many bad shots, Boise State coach Leon Rice said. We kept the pressure on them driving. Weve got guys who can finish at the rim.
Marks was 9-of-13 from the field and got to the line 16 times in the second half. He had 27 points in the final 20 minutes. Coming into the game, his 70.8 percent free-throw percentage was worst among the Broncos starters other than Watkins but Marks 83.7 percent shooting from the line last season was No. 1.
They never threw it to Watkins he was the only guy to foul, Verlin said. You cant foul Jeff (Elorriaga), you cant foul Drmic.
Marks was the lowest-percentage guy. So we said, What the heck, lets take a couple whacks and see what happens. Obviously, it backfired.
Boise State needed just about every one of those free throws, as Idaho made sure the recent streak of close rivalry games continued. Including Wednesdays game, Boise States five straight wins have been by an average of 6.2 points.
They always play tough, theyre never out of the game, Watkins said.
The Vandals went on a 16-4 run to cut the Broncos lead, which was as much as 23, down to 81-70. Idaho got as close as five, down 94-89 on a Mike Scott layup with 42.4 seconds left. The Vandals shot 63.3 percent from the field in the second half, making 19-of-30 attempts from the field. Stephen Madison led the Vandals with 26 points.
We screened a whole lot better, we drove to the basket a whole lot better and we passed it a whole lot better, Verlin said.
But it was Marks who closed it out with five straight made free throws. He scored Boise States last 15 points, adding another game to his list of strong second halves. He had five 20-point second halves last season.
Hes great if the game is going to go that way. Hes tough to guard I dont know what you do, Rice said.