Boise State breezes past Carroll College with Kentucky looming

dsouthorn@idahostatesman.comDecember 6, 2013 

Boise State's Derrick Marks drives the ball against Carroll College's Chris McGrath on Thursday at Taco Bell Arena.

OTTO KITSINGER — The Associated Press

On to Kentucky.

The Boise State men's basketball team took care of business Thursday night with an 80-52 rout of Carroll College at Taco Bell Arena.

Now 8-0, the Broncos will face No. 3 Kentucky on Tuesday.

"As a coach, you're trying to keep them focused in, we've got to come up and play - I thought they did that," Boise State coach Leon Rice said.

"But the elephant in the room was that these guys have an eye on going to play the Tuesday night game and they're excited about that. Trying to keep them dialed in to that is a tough task, but all things considered, they did a nice job of that."

Senior Jeff Elorriaga continued his dominance of NAIA teams with 18 points on six 3-pointers. He has averaged 22.0 points in four games the past two seasons against teams from the lower division.

Fellow seniors Thomas Bropleh (18 points) and Ryan Watkins (12 points, 14 rebounds) paced the Broncos.

Dennis Mikelonis, who previously played at Boise High, Borah and the College of Southern Idaho, had 26 points and seven rebounds for the Saints (4-6).

Boise State accomplished what it wanted - it got a win and mostly everyone is healthy. The Broncos were without top scorer Anthony Drmic (20.4 points per game), who fell sick a few hours before the game and stayed home.

"The day begins fine, and you think everything's going to go as planned and you get to shootaround and Anthony Drmic's throwing up," Rice said.

Rice expects Drmic to be back for Kentucky, which plays No. 20 Baylor at 8 p.m. MT Friday on ESPN.

"I'll watch the broadcast," Bropleh said. "… We've seen them play a couple times on TV already, so we have a pretty good feel for them,"

The Wildcats (7-1) will be ranked No. 1 or No. 2 against the Broncos with a win against the Bears. No. 1 Michigan State lost Wednesday to unranked North Carolina, while No. 2 Arizona hosts UNLV on Saturday. The highest-ranked opponent the Broncos have faced is No. 2 UCLA in Los Angeles on Nov. 24, 1978.

Last November, Boise State won at then-No. 11 Creighton and lost by four at then-No. 15 Michigan State. Kentucky's Rupp Arena likely will be the largest crowd the Broncos have ever played in front of, but those road experiences and tough Mountain West arenas may help.

"We've played in a lot of tough environments … and this group is a year older, everyone's more experienced," Bropleh said. "We won't be rattled by the arena or anything like that."

Kentucky boasts a team chock full of high school All-Americans and potential No. 1 NBA Draft pick Julius Randle. Rice, who faced plenty of high-level teams while as an assistant at Gonzaga for more than a decade, sees Tuesday's test as one of the biggest of his career.

"Out of all my years of coaching, I think it's got to be the most athletic top to bottom team I've ever coached against," Rice said.

FRESHMEN STEP UP FOR BSU WOMEN

With two of their top three scorers sidelined, Boise State's freshmen picked up the slack in a 63-60 win over Utah Valley on Thursday.

After going 0-for-8 from the field in her last game Nov. 29, the Broncos' Yaiza Rodriguez had 21 points on 9-of-15 shooting, while fellow freshman Tonishia Childress had 12 points in 21 minutes off the bench. Sophomore Miquelle Askew added 12 points. Boise State improved to 4-3.

"It was great all the freshmen and sophomores to step up in this game," Childress said. "… it really showed we have a great team, everyone able to step up and be ready to play."

Sophomore Lexie Der (13.0 points per game) and junior Brandi Henton (9.8 ppg) were out with a concussion and a stress fracture, respectively. Even without them, the Broncos erased an 11-point first-half lead, taking the lead for good on a jumper by freshman Brooke Pahukoa that gave Boise State a 60-58 lead with 2:56 to go.

"A lot of the time we had four freshmen out there … I was pleased with their effort and their resolve," Boise State coach Gordy Presnell said.

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