Bench gives Boise State men's basketball team a boost

Mikey Thompson averages 10.6 points for Boise State; veteran Thomas Bropleh and freshman Nick Duncan step up.

dsouthorn@idahostatesman.comDecember 5, 2013 

  • CARROLL COLLEGE AT BOISE STATE

    Tipoff: 8 p.m. Thursday

    Radio: KBOI 670 AM

    Tickets: $6 for both the men’s and women’s game (5:30 p.m. vs. Utah Valley) if fans arrive before halftime of the women’s game. For men’s game only, $8-$11.75 plus fees; Taco Bell Arena box office or via phone (426-4737)

    Records: Carroll is 4-5; Boise State is 7-0

    Series: Boise State leads 3-1; Saints defeated the Broncos 84-66 on Dec. 12, 1970 in last meeting

    Notable: Though they had a season-low 69 points Tuesday against Utah, the Broncos still finished the night No. 1 in the nation in scoring (93.6 ppg). Senior forward Ryan Watkins is No. 2 nationally in offensive rebounding percentage (21.2).

In reality, Boise State’s men’s basketball team has six starters.

Of course, only five can be on the floor for the opening tip, but sophomore Mikey Thompson plays a role as large as any player whose name is called in pregame festivities.

Thompson has been a pain for opposing defenses, scoring 10.6 points while averaging 23.6 minutes a game. He has scored in double digits five times, including 13 points in Tuesday’s 69-67 win over previously unbeaten Utah.

“The only reason he doesn’t start is because I like a guy coming off the bench that can change the game when he can score and change the tempo of the game, and he’s been great about that,” coach Leon Rice said.

With Boise State (7-0) being the only NCAA Tournament team returning all five starters, many have the Broncos penciled in to return to the Big Dance. The team knows if that is going to happen, or if it wants its first-ever tournament win, it’s the bench that will get the Broncos there.

Boise State was 2-14 prior to Friday’s game against Portland State when junior Anthony Drmic failed to reach double digits. He only had nine points against the Vikings, but Boise State won 76-60.

“It’s just the improvement of our bench — I think our depth this year is a lot better,” Drmic said. “Mostly, it’s just guys having confidence. … It’s being able to sub in without any letdown.”

On Tuesday, with junior Derrick Marks on the bench with four fouls, Thompson had seven points in the 12-plus minutes Marks was out, while senior Thomas Bropleh had three assists in that span.

“I thought Thomas did a nice job coming off the bench and guarded really well,” Rice said.

As the Broncos have received a spark from a senior off the bench, freshman Nick Duncan has played 15.4 minutes per game, and is third on the team with nine 3-pointers. He hit two in the first half Tuesday against Utah.

Those bench players, which Rice said will become more and more important as the grind of the season continues, should get plenty of time Thursday against NAIA Carroll College before the Broncos’ huge road trip to No. 3 Kentucky on Tuesday.

“You’ve got a lot of guys we need to get experience, which will pay off in January if we can get them some minutes here,” Rice said last month about playing NAIA teams.

Dave Southorn: 377-6420, Twitter: @IDS_southorn

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