BOISE — From the front of their T-shirts to the giant board covering the back wall of their film room, the Boise State Broncos defensive goals are impossible to miss.
In the summer, workout shirts with 214 were handed out to inspire improvement, a reminder of their national ranking in field goal percentage defense last season. A few weeks before the season started, a silver board about 30 feet wide was installed in the film room with 40-30-6 across the top.
Thats a reminder of specific benchmarks holding opponents to 40 percent shooting or less on 2-pointers, 30 percent or less on 3-pointers, and owning a rebounding margin of plus-six or better.
For each game, a Bronco logo is placed when a goal is met. In 10-of-13 games, the Broncos have accomplished at least one, but done all three only once. In the three games without accomplishing any, Boise State is 1-2.
We feel like we shouldve been able to get more of those, but were getting closer and thats the key, senior Jeff Elorriaga said.
After nonconference play and entering Saturdays Mountain West season debut at home against Fresno State (7 p.m., ESPN3), the Broncos are allowing 49.8 percent shooting on 2s, 33.0 percent on 3s and own a plus-4.0 rebounding edge per game.
I think weve had some terrific moments defensively, coach Leon Rice said.
Coming off a 22-day stretch that included two games against SEC teams, one against the Pac-12, one against the Big 12, a then-unbeaten Saint Marys team and Hawaii in Honolulu, the defense feels ready for the conference grind.
On Dec. 23 against South Carolina, the Broncos held the Gamecocks to 54 points and forced 18 turnovers. Two days later, they held then-No. 14 Iowa State to a season-low 70 points, with just 27 in the first half.
I feel were right on the cusp of becoming a really good defensive team, assistant coach Danny Henderson said. Were putting together more and more sequences of playing well, getting stops. We definitely started to feel it in Hawaii a few times.
The Broncos are tied for 176th nationally after Thursdays games in field goal percentage defense at 43.4 percent, nearly identical to the 43.3 percent allowed in nonconference play last season. Rice, looking back at last year, noted these Broncos dont give up a lot of easy shots.
But this is about where the team wanted to be, with positive signs of improvement heading into the truly important measuring sticks of MW and postseason play.
We want to be the team that continues to grow, and I think we can continue to do that on the defensive end and rebounding the basketball, Rice said.
Rice added Henderson to his staff prior to the season after a Texas high school coaching career where he won four state titles and was renowned for his defensive prowess.
Everyone immediately thinks offense, but you can go on a defensive run, Henderson said.
If the defense comes together like I think its about to, well be racking up those Bronco heads on that board.
Dave Southorn: 377-6420; Twitter: @IDS_Southorn