Boise State men ‘on a mission’ in Hawaii

Broncos, coming off consecutive losses, prepare for tough Diamond Head Classic.

dsouthorn@idahostatesman.comDecember 22, 2013 

HONOLULU — Well before the Boise State Broncos suffered back-to-back losses, they were going to delay most of their Aloha experience in Hawaii.

Boise State arrived in Honolulu late Friday and got acclimated Saturday with a little bit of free time before they play three games in four days at the Diamond Head Classic. The first is against Hawaii at 11 p.m. MT Sunday.

The Broncos’ last game in the tournament is Wednesday, after which the team will have about two days to enjoy Hawaii. But after starting 8-0 and losing their last two, sun and surf isn’t much on the Broncos’ minds.

“We’re not on a business trip, we’re not on a vacation … we’re on a mission,” coach Leon Rice said.

Said senior Ryan Watkins: “It’s the elephant in the room, but we’ll address it. … Our main goal down there is to win games. They let us enjoy it after we play. We take care of business first, then get to enjoy it afterward.”

The Diamond Head Classic field includes two unbeaten teams — No. 17 Iowa State and Saint Mary’s, which beat Boise State 82-74 on Dec. 14 in Boise. Then there is the Broncos’ opponent Sunday, the Warriors, who are 42-20 at home under coach Gib Arnold.

“There’s no gimme games here,” junior Anthony Drmic said.

This is the Broncos’ first major regular season nonconference tournament appearance since the Pearl Harbor Classic, also in Hawaii, in 2000.

“It’s a great opportunity,” Drmic said. “… we know those opportunities don’t come easy, so hopefully we can come out and produce.”

Rice is optimistic his team will rebound following losses to Kentucky and Saint Mary’s. He praised his team’s practices and preparation before departing for Honolulu.

“That’s what I saw this week — we addressed our problems,” Rice said. “They didn’t try to run from them or make excuses for them. I know we’ve gotten better. Every team, its how they react to those kinds of situations that makes for whether you have a great year, or you don’t. I’m excited to be able to see them play again.”

In the Broncos’ two losses, they had 16 assists to 20 turnovers. In their prior eight games, they had 104 assists to 82 turnovers.

“We were able to get a lot of stuff done,” Watkins said. “We just got back to doing what we do best, moving the ball. … We kind of got away from that.”

The basketball team is scheduled to attend the Hawaii Bowl between Boise State and Oregon State on Tuesday night, when the hoops tournament takes the day off. Boise State football players are scheduled to attend one of the basketball games.

“Hawaii’s Hawaii, the warm weather’s great and all that, it’s neat the football team’s going to be there,’’ Rice said. “But our guys are excited about one thing, and that’s playing the University of Hawaii on Sunday.’’

Dave Southorn: 377-6420, Twitter: @IDS_southorn

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