BOISE — The NCAA's new rules cracking down on hand-checking could have been a nightmare for Boise State and Derrick Marks.
Instead, the junior guard has fouled less than he did as a sophomore, when he fouled out five times; or as a freshman, when he did six times. Through 15 games this season, he has yet to foul out.
In practice, if he commits five fouls, Marks has to do some extra running.
"I haven't had to yet," Marks said with a big smile.
Marks and the Broncos host Wyoming on Saturday.
Couple the rule changes defensively with a tendency to drive to the basket, and the fact he is fouling 10 percent less frequently (2.7 per game from 3.0), it is a sign of growth in Marks' game.
"I think I'm more mature, I've got more confidence - I always believed in my teammates, but now, I'm believing in myself more," Marks said. "I was a bit of a mess last year at times. My focus is a lot better. I know my teammates need me out there, so I can't be on the bench."
Marks, who averages 28 minutes per game, has at times picked up fouls that have left Boise State coach Leon Rice a bit puzzled. But that may be in part Rice's own doing.
"He's playing heavy minutes. I've got to manage them. It sometimes makes him play better if I can manage them a bit, but it's so hard to take him out of the game," Rice said. "It probably causes some mental lapses when he plays 25 straight minutes."
Marks' 15.8 points per game are just a shade less than the 16.3 ppg he had last season, and his field goal percentage of 46.1 percent is 0.5 behind what he shot in 2012-13.
Twice in his past four games, Marks has had four points. In the other two games, he had 44 combined points.
"I think over the years he's become more and more consistent, but you're going to have ups and downs with college kids," Rice said. "He's going to be a better player in a month; he's going to be better next year. That's what I love about him - he has a desire to get better."
When Marks hasn't scored in double digits this season and last, Boise State is 9-2, including 4-0 this season.
"I can't play perfect every game. If I don't have my best game and we win, I don't really care," Marks said.
Marks has missed potential game-tying or game-winning shots with less than 30 seconds to play against top-15 teams Dec. 25 (Iowa State) and Wednesday (at San Diego State). Those are what observers remember, but he also had 24 combined points in the second halves of those games, with only two turnovers.
"It's like being the kicker. You can make 100 in a row, but you miss that last one to win the game and you're hated," Rice said. "He got us back in that situation with his steals, his drives."
Those missed in-the-spotlight shots have done little to deter Marks, who said Friday, "What means the most is that I'm trusted to take those shots, and I'll be happy to take the next one."
After his 21-point performance Wednesday, Marks hopes to put a few games like that together, and get wins with them.
"I'm getting there, but I've still got some work to do," Marks said.
Bronco women seek first road win
The Boise State women, coming off their first Mountain West win of the season, travel to face Wyoming at 2 p.m. Saturday. Boise State (6-7, 1-1 MW) defeated San Diego State 73-64 on Wednesday at home. Junior Deanna Weaver, an Oregon transfer, scored 25 points to lead the Broncos. She has averaged 19.7 points in three games. The Broncos are 0-5 on the road, and face a tough test at Wyoming (10-3, 1-1). The Cowgirls are 5-1 in Laramie, with their only loss coming then-No. 11 Colorado. Three Cowgirls score at least 13.2 ppg, led by junior Kayla Woodward (17.2).
Dave Southorn: 377-6420, Twitter: @IDS_Southorn