Boise State's offense meets San Diego State's defense

The No. 13 Aztecs will be a huge test for the Broncos’ prolific attack.

dsouthorn@idahostatesman.comJanuary 8, 2014 

Boise State's Anthony Drmic (3) drives to the basket and scores over Fresno State's Tyler Johnson during a Mountain West Conference men's basketball game at Taco Bell Arena Saturday, Jan. 4, 2014.



    Time: 9 p.m.

    Radio/TV: KBOI 670 AM; ESPNU

    Vegas line: San Diego State by 8.5

    Records: Boise State is 11-3, 1-0 MW; San Diego State is 12-1, 1-0 (won 61-57 at No. 16 Kansas on Sunday)

    Series: San Diego State leads 6-1 (last meeting: SDSU 73-67, MW Tournament, March 13, 2013)

    Notable: The Aztecs are No. 4 in the nation in 3-point field goal defense, letting foes shoot 25.8 percent from long distance. Boise State senior Jeff Elorriaga is No. 1 among individuals, making 55.1 percent of his 3s.

— The top scoring team in the Mountain West takes on the conference’s best defensive team Wednesday in San Diego.

It has the makings of a close matchup — and if recent history is any indication, it probably will be.

The Boise State men’s basketball team faces 13th-ranked San Diego State in its first league game on the road. The Broncos are 1-5 against the Aztecs the last two seasons, with five of the games decided by six points or less. Tipoff is 9:05 p.m. MT on ESPNU.

“It normally has come down to the last shot, but it’s normally been in their favor,” Boise State junior Anthony Drmic said. “Hopefully we can be on the other side of it there.”

The Broncos (11-3, 1-0) are a deadly shooting team, entering this week 21st in the nation with 82.7 points per game and 27th in 3-point percentage (40.1).

The Aztecs (12-1, 1-0), no slouches on defense last season, are at a whole new level two months into the 2013-14 campaign despite losing three starters.

San Diego State, coming into this week, is No. 1 in the nation in field goal percentage defense (33.9), No. 2 in scoring defense (53.6 ppg) and No. 4 in 3-point field goal percentage defense (25.8). Last season, the Aztecs finished 31st, 43rd and 81st, respectively, in those categories.

“They defend way better,” Boise State coach Leon Rice said. “Not that they were a bad defensive team in any way, shape or form … they’re better, way better, and one of the best defensive teams, best rebounding teams in the country.”

A national TV audience witnessed the Aztecs’ defense Sunday when they won at then-No. 16 Kansas 61-57. It was the Jayhawks’ first nonconference home loss in 68 games, and their 29.8 percent shooting was their worst at home since Dec. 1, 1998. The Aztecs had a 51-29 rebounding edge.

“That was so impressive,” Rice said. “… Kansas shot 29 percent at home against them, that’s just unbelievable.

“They’re just so long, so athletic, and looks like they take so much pride in what they’re doing defensively.”

Such a strong performance at Kansas, coupled with the fact their lone loss came to now-No. 1 Arizona, the Aztecs jumped from 21st to 13th in this week’s Associated Press Top 25 poll.

It will be a record third time in one season a Boise State team has faced a top-15 team — the Broncos lost 70-55 at then-No. 11 Kentucky on Dec. 10, and lost 70-66 against then-No. 14 Iowa State on Dec. 25 in Hawaii.

“It’s one we were definitely looking forward to,” Drmic said. “We knew they’d probably be ranked. It’s exciting any time you get the chance to play a ranked team.”

San Diego State coach Steve Fisher stressed this week that his team needed to shift focus quickly after a big win to face one of their fellow contenders in the Mountain West. After facing the tall Kansas lineup, Boise State will offer a different test with its four-guard starting lineup.

“They have more shooters and scorers, I would say, than Kansas, as crazy as that might sound,” San Diego State sophomore Winston Shepard said Tuesday.

Focus for Boise State won’t be an issue, either, not with the chance to get the third top-15 win in program history, and do it against a team that has won both its home meetings against Boise State by a combined three points.

“We always go wire-to-wire … we’re going to have to use that experience and learn from it, we’re going to have to play an A-game,” Boise State senior Jeff Elorriaga said.

Dave Southorn: 377-6420, Twitter: @IDS_Southorn

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