Loss to Kentucky may have recalibrated Boise State men's basketball team

Broncos host undefeated Gaels in a rare crucial nonconference contest.

dsouthorn@idahostatesman.comDecember 14, 2013 

Ryan Watkins led Boise State with eight rebounds during Tuesday’s road loss to No. 11 Kentucky.

KYLE GREEN — kgreen@idahostatesman.com

  • SAINT MARY’S AT BOISE STATE

    • Line: Boise State by 2 1⁄2

    • Tickets: $6 for men’s and women’s games (1 p.m. vs. San Francisco) if fans arrive before halftime of the women’s game; men’s game only $14-$20 plus fees; at Taco Bell Arena box office or via phone (426-4737)

    • Records: Saint Mary’s 7-0; Boise State 8-1

    • Series: BSU leads 6-5 (SMC won last meeting 58-57 in Provo, Utah, on Dec. 14, 1996)

    • Notable: New BSU football coach Bryan Harsin will be introduced to the crowd at halftime of the men’s game. … The teams could meet again Dec. 23 in Hawaii at the Diamond Head Classic.

    • Root Sports channels: Cable One 27, DirecTV 687, Dish: 426

— They’ve handled adversity well in games, and they’ve handled it well in an impromptu eight-hour bus ride. Now, the Boise State Broncos will see how they handle a tough game coming off a loss.

No. 11 Kentucky handed Boise State its first loss Tuesday in Lexington, Ky., but the Broncos’ focus has shifted quickly with unbeaten Saint Mary’s (7-0) visiting Taco Bell Arena on Saturday (4:05 p.m., ROOT).

So far, the Broncos (8-1) have rebounded nicely.

“We might’ve had the best practice of the year (Thursday),” Boise State coach Leon Rice said. “That’s what I love about these guys — it didn’t sit well. They didn’t go, ‘Oh, we lost to a great team.’ We’re mad that we didn’t give everything we could to give them our best shot.”

After the 70-55 setback Tuesday, Rice rued catching the Wildcats following a loss in their previous game against Baylor, saying it may have “recalibrated” John Calipari’s squad.

Though some of the areas in which the Broncos struggled were no doubt a credit to Kentucky, they prompted Thursday’s practice, during which Rice said, “I was loving it.”

He hoped it did the same thing for his team that it did for the Wildcats.

“It helps maybe recalibrate some things we were doing,” he said. “Sometimes it snaps guys’ attention a little when you do drop one.”

Boise State has used four players this season who did not play for the team last season, and the loss could be a new learning experience for them.

“We have some guys on this team that hadn’t tasted defeat yet, so I think this (week) will be good for them,” junior Anthony Drmic said Tuesday.

Also helping focus this week is the fact the 7-0 Gaels (one of only 14 undefeated teams left) come to Boise, a reminder of a “heated, hated rivalry” from Rice’s 12 seasons at Gonzaga.

The Gaels have adapted well minus Matthew Dellavedova, the Aussie guard who left with a school-record 1,933 points and is an NBA rookie with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Forward Brad Waldow has stepped into the go-to role with 18.6 points and 7.1 rebounds per game with only three turnovers thus far.

“He’s terrific,” Rice said.

Saturday’s matchup will be the Gaels’ first road game of the season, and the Broncos have already ruined an unbeaten team’s start on its first road trip (last week against Utah).

As of Friday afternoon, Boise State had distributed nearly 8,000 tickets for Saturday’s game. Coupling a chance to beat a team No. 8 in RealTimeRPI.com’s rankings in front of a big crowd, with a shot to start a new winning streak, Rice wasn’t shy about the importance of the matchup against the Gaels.

“No question it’s more important (than Kentucky),” Rice said. “Kentucky is almost a free swing; you get a shot at the title on the road. This is a home game against a top-10 team in the RPI, so it’s a huge game.”

BSU women ready for friendly confines

Coming off an 85-71 loss to Portland on Sunday, the Broncos (4-4) hope to get back above .500 on Saturday against San Francisco at Taco Bell Arena.

The Broncos’ home floor has been where all four of their wins have come, while they are 0-3 on the road.

Boise State sophomore center Miquelle Askew is among the Mountain West’s top 10 in scoring (14.8 points per game) and rebounding (6.6 rpg). Sophomore forward Lexie Der is averaging 13.0 ppg and 7.2 rpg. Countering for the Dons (3-5) are two talented 5-foot-10 guards, Rachel Howard (13.6 ppg) and Taj Winston (12.9 ppg).

Dave Southorn: 377-6420, Twitter: @IDS_Southorn

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