Boise State's trip to Lexington gets even longer

Stranded in Chicago, the Bronco men's basketball team takes the bus en route to battle with No. 11 Kentucky.

dsouthorn@idahostatesman.comDecember 10, 2013 

  • BOISE ST. AT KENTUCKY

    Æ Time: 7 p.m. today

    Æ Radio/TV: KBOI 670 AM; ESPN (Dave O'Brien and Jay Bilas)

    Æ Line: Kentucky by 12.5

    Æ Records: Boise State 8-0; Kentucky 7-2 (lost 67-62 to then-No. 20 Baylor on Friday)

    Æ Series: First meeting

    Æ Notable: The Wildcats fell from No. 3 to 11 after losing to the Bears. … The highest-ranked opponent Boise State has defeated was then-No. 11 Creighton on Nov. 28, 2012. … Boise State is one of 14 undefeated teams in the nation.

— As if trying to knock off Kentucky at home isn’t hard enough, Mother Nature did what even Julius Randle can’t: Delay Boise State’s arrival in Lexington.

After flying out of Boise on Monday morning, the Broncos were slated to land in Kentucky from Chicago at approximately 3:30 p.m. ET, but the cold snap enveloping much of the country forced the team’s flight to be canceled. Instead, Boise State took a bus from the Windy City and arrived right around midnight ahead of Tuesday’s 7 p.m. MT game, televised on ESPN.

“We’re not going to use it as an excuse,” Boise State coach Leon Rice said. “The only thing that makes it difficult is the team we’re playing Tuesday. Our guys are pretty resilient, so I think they’ll handle it well.”

Initially, Boise State was supposed to practice at a local high school for an hour and then for another hour at Rupp Arena, but instead the Broncos’ first time on the Wildcats’ floor will be for a Tuesday morning shootaround.

“As a coach, you always want that last practice to tie up the loose ends, so that’s probably the toughest part,” Rice said.

Without the chance to practice Monday, the team had to get creative — Rice planned a quick walkthrough in the hotel conference room after the bus arrived, and said the team likely would have an extra one at the hotel Tuesday. The 9 p.m. ET tipoff softens the blow of the late arrival, too.

“You can’t control everything — you can’t make Jeff (Elorriaga) 7-foot-2,” junior Anthony Drmic said. “So when you travel, there’s the chance this can happen, and you have to deal with it.”

Drmic’s crack about the Broncos’ senior guard was emblematic of the team’s ability to cope with curveballs. Though it is one of the biggest road tests in school history, the team was calm and adapted. On the bus ride, some slept, some did classwork, and some studied film.

“They’ve handled it well, and handled it well in the past,” Rice said. “My first year (in 2011), we got caught on Donner Pass on our way to Nevada. We had to eat one of the freshmen.”

No freshmen were harmed on that trip, a 72-66 win on Feb. 26, 2011, and all were accounted for Monday night. On Tuesday, the Broncos face some freshmen in Kentucky’s lineup that have feasted on others, like Randle (17.9 points per game, 12.1 rebounds per game), the potential No. 1 pick in next year’s NBA Draft. Rice said he feels like “we still got a lot done” in readying for the challenge.

“On the bus, you don’t have a court, obviously, so that is hard, but what we’ve been working hard on all week, drilling on the last few days, we’ve been working on it all year,” Drmic said.

Drmic, the Broncos’ top scorer (20.4 ppg), missed the last game — an 80-52 win over Carroll on Thursday — with an illness, but he will be in the starting lineup Tuesday. It was the first game he had missed since Dec. 22, 2011 and only the second in his career. While Drmic exuded the Aussie calm he’s always owned off the floor, part of Rice hopes Monday’s setback will get Drmic, and by proxy, his teammates, a little more motivated.

“We don’t allow complaining, and hopefully it just makes Anthony mad,” Rice said. “He plays best when he’s mad.”

Dave Southorn: 377-6420, Twitter: @IDS_Southorn

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