Boise State men's basketball hasn't forgotten loss to Utah

The Broncos and Utes are unbeaten heading into tonight’s rematch at Taco Bell Arena.

dsouthorn@idahostatesman.comDecember 3, 2013 

Idaho ties on the Utah coaching staff Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak, left, in his third season with the Pac-12 program, was the Idaho Stampede’s head coach in the 2003-04 NBA Development League season. His top assistant, Tommy Connor, was a standout at Borah High before playing collegiately at Utah from 1986-90. Next season, another Borah Lion is expected to enter the fray, as guard Isaiah Wright, currently a senior, has signed to play for Utah.

SCOTT SOMMERDORF — The Associated Press

  • UTAH AT BOISE STATE

    Time: 8:05 p.m. today

    Radio/TV: KBOI 670 AM/CBS Sports Network (DirecTV channel 221, Dish Network channel 152, CableOne channels 332/410)

    Tickets: $14-$20 plus fees; Taco Bell Arena box office or via phone (426-4737)

    Records: Both teams are 6-0.

    Series: Utah leads 4-2; Utes defeated the Broncos 76-55 in Salt Lake City on Dec. 5, 2012 in last meeting

    Notable: The home teams are 6-0 in the series — Boise State defeated Utah 80-59 on Nov. 16, 2011 in last meeting at Taco Bell Arena.

— As if Boise State needs any motivation for Tuesday’s game against Utah, all the Broncos need is to think back almost exactly one year ago.

Playing a third straight road game, Boise State traveled to Salt Lake City on Dec. 5, 2012. On a night honoring recently passed coach Rick Majerus, the result was the second-worst in Boise State coach Leon Rice’s tenure — a 76-55 rout in favor of Utah, which shot 67.5 percent.

“I don’t think we were 100 percent ready for that,” Boise State junior Anthony Drmic said.

This time, the Broncos are far more comfortable and they’re playing in the friendly confines of Taco Bell Arena (8:05 p.m., CBS Sports Network).

Off to a 6-0 start that matches the best in school history, Boise State led the nation in scoring with 97.7 points per game entering this week. On the other side, making its first road trip of the season is 6-0 Utah, sixth nationally with 90.7 points per game.

The matchup represents the toughest foe to date for either team, and pits squads that have both been blowing out opponents — Utah is No. 1 in scoring margin (33.8), and Boise State is fourth (24.8).

“I think it’s a great test for both teams,” Rice said.

Boise State got to avenge road losses last season like double-digit losses against Air Force, Nevada and Colorado State. They won the home side of those games by at least 12.

But those were Mountain West games. Utah has had to wait.

“Not revenge — but obviously, it’s going to fuel you, losing to a team by 20 and them shooting such a high percentage,” Drmic said. “Some of the guys, you can see it in their eyes, they’re ready to go.”

Though he said his teammates are fired up, Drmic will no doubt be among them. He had only three points last year against the Utes, and is coming off a nine-point game Friday against Portland State.

Last season, he averaged 22.8 points per game in the five games after he scored in single digits, including a career-high 34 against LSU nine days following the loss to Utah.

“The more you challenge, the better he is,” Rice said.

While Boise State returns all five starters and eight of the 11 who played last year at Utah, the Utes return only five of the 11 who played.

Among the newcomers is junior college transfer Delon Wright, a guard who is scoring 15.2 points per game and shooting 74.5 percent from the field (38-of-51). The Utah defense has matched the offense’s output, allowing opponents to make only 18.2 percent of 3-point attempts (22-of-121).

“They’re a lot different team than they were last year,” Rice said. “For them to be playing that well with such a new team is impressive.”

Though Rice said the game won’t be “a season-making test,” it will no doubt be a measuring stick of some of the areas of concern that popped up in the Utah loss and lingered throughout last season.

Boise State thus far has allowed only one opponent to make better than 50 percent of its shots (Idaho, 50.8).

“We all know last year they shot a pretty good percentage against us — defensively, we’re coming in focused,” Drmic said.

Focused, fired up, ready to go, whatever, the Broncos are keen to host a red-hot team, but also one that will provide just a little bit of an extra incentive for a win.

“They were all on the team last year, they know what happened to us — they’ll be excited to play, because it’s a good team, not because of last year, really,” Rice said.

IDAHO TIES ON UTES STAFF: Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak, in his third season with the team, was the Idaho Stampede’s head coach in the 2003-04 season. His top assistant, Tommy Connor, was a standout at Borah High before playing collegiately at Utah from 1986-90. Next season, another Borah Lion is expected to enter the fray, as guard Isaiah Wright, currently a senior, has signed to join the team for 2014-15.

Dave Southorn: 377-6420, Twitter: @IDS_southorn

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