BSU rips South Carolina; faces Iowa State for title

South Carolina coach: ‘They don’t get credit for the defense they play.’ © 2013 Idaho StatesmanDecember 24, 2013 

— With the least amount of time possible to prepare, the Boise State basketball team posted perhaps its best game of the season Monday.

Playing their second game in less than 24 hours, the Broncos crushed South Carolina 80-54 to advance to the Diamond Head Classic championship.

Boise State will face No. 14 Iowa State on Wednesday (6:30 p.m. MT, ESPN2).

“I thought it was probably our most complete game, offensive and defensively, but it started with our defense,” Boise State coach Leon Rice said.

From the opening moments, it was the Broncos’ defense that was going to aggravate the Gamecocks just as much as Boise State’s array of shooters.

South Carolina (3-6) had 11 turnovers in the first half as Boise State (10-2), which never trailed, took a 43-28 halftime lead.

The Gamecocks never got within 12 points again, and the Broncos led by as much as 30 in the second half.

Boise State forced 18 turnovers, and South Carolina had just six assists. By comparison, the Broncos had nine turnovers and 16 assists.

“We just did a good job playing our game, and that’s what we’ve been stressing on the last (week),” senior Jeff Elorriaga said.

Before South Carolina made its final three field goals, the Gamecocks were shooting 27.2 percent (6-of-22) in the second half.

They finished 19-of-51 (37.3 percent), the worst shooting performance for a Division I team against the Broncos this season.

“They don’t get credit for the defense they play,” said South Carolina coach Frank Martin, whose team beat then-undefeated Saint Mary’s on Sunday. “Our guys drive it from the top of the key and couldn’t crack the foul line because the help was there.”

The Broncos shot 53.7 percent from the field (29-of-54), led by Anthony Drmic’s 30 points on 10-of-17 shooting. Mikey Thompson had 10 off the bench.

Drmic had 21 in the first half alone, matching his game-high total he posted Sunday night in a 62-61 win over Hawaii. He added six rebounds, three steals and had only one turnover in 35 minutes.

“Twenty-one in the first half, that was probably the most impressive thing,” Rice said. “He had one play where he got off balance, the rest of it was just strong all night.”

Coming into the Diamond Head Classic, the Broncos had lost back-to-back games at then-No. 11 Kentucky and at home to Saint Mary’s.

Those setbacks fueled a team that has begun to look like itself again. The Broncos outscored the Gamecocks 20-2 on points off turnovers, and outscored them 40-22 in the paint.

“I think that week of preparation before we came to Hawaii, we really found ourselves as a team, I think, through that process and we’re showing it this week,” Drmic said.

Boise State will get a day of rest Tuesday with no game, but Wednesday against the 10-0 Cyclones will present a big opportunity for a team seeking one more big nonconference win before Mountain West play.

The Broncos know the only way they would get that chance would be to play just like they did Monday.

“It’s a great opportunity — obviously our goal was first to get to the championship game and we’ve done that,” Drmic said. “Now we have a really tough opponent in Iowa State.”

Getting to know Iowa State

The Cyclones (10-0) have matched the best start in school history.

Four players average at least 13.6 points per game, and the Cyclones’ 88.9 points per game are in the top 10 nationally. Their 19.6 assists per game are No. 1.

Six-foot-6 senior Melvin Ejim leads the team with 18.4 points per game, with 6-7 sophomore Georges Niang right behind at 16.0 ppg.

Senior guard DeAndre Kane is an all-around force with 14.1 points, 7.7 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game. At 6-6, Dustin Hogue is a rebounding whiz with 10.4 per game in addition to 13.6 points a game.

The Cyclones have top-25 wins against Michigan and Iowa, and have a win at BYU in addition to two wins in Hawaii.

“We’re going to have to be very dialed in," BSU guard Jeff Elorriaga said. "This is going to be a very tough task for us. But we knew that Iowa State, that’s kind of the best team in here, so we’ve got our hands full Wednesday.”

Dave Southorn: 377-6420, Twitter: @IDS_Southorn

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