Boise State men's basketball team matches best start in school history

BSU improves to 6-0 behind strong defense in win over Portland State.

dsouthorn@idahostatesman.comNovember 30, 2013 

Boise State’s Derrick Marks, left, attempts to keep the ball away from Portland State’s Gary Winston during the first half of the Broncos’ win Friday night at Taco Bell Arena.

OTTO KITSINGER — The Associated Press

In 48 hours, the Boise State men’s basketball team found two new ways to win.

Two days after making its fewest 3-pointers in a 40-game span, the nation’s top scoring team found a spark from its defense Friday.

Holding on to a 34-30 lead at the half, Boise State shut down Portland State from there, allowing the Vikings to make just four of their first 17 shots in the second half en route to a 76-60 win.

The 6-0 start matches the best in school history.

“That first 10-12 minutes of the second half, we probably played the best defense we’ve played all year and won the game with our defense,” Boise State coach Leon Rice said. “To be a good team, that’s what you have to be able to do — we’re not going to score 100 every night.”

Boise State also avoided a recent trap of hitting cruise control on the defensive end in the second half. On Wednesday against Idaho and last Saturday at New Orleans, the two opponents shot 63 percent in the final 20 minutes of those games.

Friday was a bit different, as the Broncos slowly built their lead and did not allow Portland State (4-2) to make a run until it made its final four shots. The Vikings were 9-of-23 from the field in the second half and 22-of-51 overall (43.1 percent).

After being outrebounded 15-12 in the first half, the Broncos dominated the boards in the final 20 minutes, holding a 28-11 edge.

“It means we’re moving forward as a team. We’ve been talking about that at practice, working on the second half, getting stops down the stretch,” Boise State junior guard Igor Hadziomerovic said.

The Broncos led by as much as 26 on Friday, taking advantage of the defensive prowess with 36 of the first 50 points of the second half. Boise State has led by at least 20 in the second half of all six of its games thus far. The Broncos found success once again, not with the 3-point shot, but by driving the lane. The Broncos made 4-of-16 3-pointers Friday, but got to the free-throw line 25 times, making 22.

“If they want to keep taking away the 3-point shot, that’s going to keep giving us driving lanes,” said Boise State junior guard Derrick Marks, who had 14 points Friday after scoring 39 on Wednesday.

Following the Broncos’ emotional win Wednesday over their rival, in which the Vandals cut a 23-point lead to five in the last minute, they faced a quick turnaround to Friday’s game against a team that had won four in a row.

And in between was Thanksgiving at Rice’s house.

“We had a good meal,” said Hadziomerovic, who had nine of his 12 points in the second half. “We just didn’t come out ready to play, but we got on it quick, sorted it out.”

Perhaps the only Bronco who didn’t come out slow was senior Ryan Watkins, who had 11 points (on 5-of-6 shooting) and six rebounds in the first half.

He finished with a second-straight double-double, scoring 14 points and grabbing 13 rebounds. Sophomore Mikey Thompson had 13 points off the bench, his fourth game in double figures this season.

Boise State will face another high-scoring squad Tuesday when it hosts Utah (6-0). The Utes are scoring 90.7 points per game. The Broncos average 97.7 points per game, but proved Friday they can win with defense, too.

“Good teams, you can address a problem. You can work on it, and they get better at it,” Rice said.

Dave Southorn: 377-6420, Twitter: @IDS_southorn

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