Slow start dooms Boise State

New Mexico leads wire-to-wire in victory over Boise State.

dsouthorn@idahostatesman.comJanuary 22, 2014 

Boise St New Mexico Basketball

Boise State's Jake Ness collects a rebound over New Mexico's Kendall Williams during the first half of Tuesday at The Pit in Albuquerque, N.M.

JUAN ANTONIO LABRECHE — AP

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Already underground, Boise State dug itself a hole.

At New Mexico’s subterranean lair, The Pit, the Broncos got behind early Tuesday, rarely a good proposition at one of the most difficult environments in the West.

The Broncos made just one field goal in the first 6 minutes, 30 seconds, trailing by 13 before making their second. A late push got the Broncos as close as five points, but they trailed from wire-to-wire, falling to 0-5 all-time against New Mexico in an 84-75 loss.

“If we don’t come out with a big edge to us, we’re in big trouble,” Boise State coach Leon Rice said. “We didn’t quite have that to start.”

In Boise State’s three Mountain West road games, they have fallen behind by 26-8, 7-0 and 17-4 deficits.

The typically reliable offense of the Broncos (13-6, 3-3 MW) went askew Tuesday, as they missed 20 of their first 26 field goals, including 10 of their first 11 3-pointers. New Mexico (14-4, 5-1) was 14-of-27 (51.9 percent) in the first half, taking a 40-27 lead at the break.

“We know we can score, but on the road, it’s all about getting stops,” sophomore Mikey Thompson said. “We have to play our game, and when we’ve been on the road, we haven’t done that. We need to do it right off the tip.”

As it has all season, Boise State began to claw back, getting as close as 69-64 with 5:50 to play on an Anthony Drmic 3-pointer. But Kendall Williams responded with a 3-pointer of his own on the other end. The Broncos got within six twice more, but each time, the Lobos scored on the next possession.

“It’s tough to get going in a place like this, and you get down like that right away, it’s going to come back to bite you — and it did,” Boise State senior Ryan Watkins said. “We had to make those stops. Those are the difference between winning and losing.”

New Mexico’s height, with 7-footer Alex Kirk and 6-foot-9 Cameron Bairstow, presented some problems, as Rice said the Broncos missed six layups in the first half, but Watkins was a monster with 15 points and 22 rebounds, a career-best and two shy of tying the school record.

“It’s amazing,” Rice said. “I’ve never coached a kid that has played to the level of his talent and above more than Ryan.”

The Lobos mixed in a strong inside presence with Bairstow and Kirk scoring 17 and 15 points, respectively, while guard Kendall Williams added 18. Fellow guard Hugh Greenwood had 20 points for his first double-figure game of the season. In five games against Boise State, he has scored 10 or more points four times. In his other 78 career games, he’s hit double figures 14 times.

“He loves the Aussie on Aussie crime,” Rice said of the native of Tasmania playing against a Boise State team with three Australian players.

In the losing effort, Derrick Marks led Boise State with 19 points, while freshman Nick Duncan had a career-best 16 points in his first start. The Broncos will next take on a familiar face in former assistant Dave Wojcik’s San Jose State Spartans on Saturday in Boise.

“We know he’s going to have them playing hard, and we just have to play harder, rely on defense because that will carry the offense,” Thompson said.

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