Bropleh’s career day fuels Boise State men's basketball rally

The senior guard matches his career high in crucial Mtn. West win.

STATESMAN STAFFMarch 2, 2014 

Coming off a 20-point loss and down 15-0 to start Saturday afternoon at Wyoming, the Boise State Broncos responded with some of their best basketball of the year.

Without its top scorer, Boise State outscored Wyoming 68-42 after spotting the home team a 21-4 lead. A balanced offense and a lockdown defense propelled Boise State to its 72-63 win, the team’s third Mountain West road victory of the season. The Broncos had three such wins in their first two seasons in the league.

“Missing key guys, at 7,000 feet, down big early, I don’t think very many teams have ever come back from something like that,” Boise State coach Leon Rice said. “That was one of the worst starts we’ve had, but that really speaks to the toughness, the resolve of our guys.”

The Broncos (19-10, 9-7) maintained the fourth spot in the Mountain West, breaking a tie with the Cowboys (17-12, 8-8).

Hobbled by an ankle injury he suffered in Boise State’s 76-56 loss at Fresno State, junior Anthony Drmic (16.9 points per game) did not play. His presence was missed early on, as the Broncos made two of their first nine shots, but Thomas Bropleh, making his fourth start of the season, filled the void.

Bropleh tied a career-high with 20 points, including 13 in the first half, all during a stretch where the Broncos cut the 21-4 lead to 27-19.

“He really put it on his back and kept us in it there,” Rice said.

Boise State shot 56.3 percent in the game, making 27-of-48 field goals, shooting 64.1 percent after the 2-for-9 start. Wyoming came out on fire, making nine of its first 11, but finished 22-of-46, making just 37.1 percent in the last 33 minutes.

Second-leading scorer Derrick Marks, who was averaging 15.3 ppg, struggled with an infected wisdom tooth and had five points on 1-of-5 shooting in 17 minutes. With Drmic out and Marks having an off night, the Broncos got some key bench contributions.

Junior Igor Hadziomerovic had nine points (his most since Nov. 29) and added five rebounds in 23 minutes off the bench. Junior Joe Hanstad played a season-high 14 minutes and scored his first points since Nov. 19. Freshman Nick Duncan, who had one point at Fresno State, added eight points, including the go-ahead 3-pointer with 14:39 to play that made it 43-42.

“It’s hard for those guys, when your role hasn’t necessarily been to score, then you’ve got to go do it,” Rice said. “It was pretty remarkable, it’s not common to see that sort of team play.”

As the bench made a mark, some stalwarts stepped up, too. Sophomore Mikey Thompson and senior Ryan Watkins had 14 points apiece. Watkins had 12 rebounds, and in the process set the Mountain West single-season record for rebounds in league play with 199, breaking the record of 190 set by San Diego State’s Kawhi Leonard.

Watkins, Bropleh and Jeff Elorriaga will be honored Wednesday in the Broncos’ home finale against Nevada.

“They’ve been the cornerstone of the culture we want to build here, and I hope we send them out the right way — let’s sell the place out,” Rice said.

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