Boise State men's basketball kicks off tournament play Wednesday night

Healthier Broncos seek their second conference tourney win in 6 years.

dsouthorn@idahostatesman.comMarch 12, 2014 

IN THE LAST MEETING: Derrick Marks scored 19 points to lead four Boise State players in double figures, and the Broncos cruised to a 76-55 win over San Jose State on Jan. 25 in Taco Bell Arena. Ryan Watkins added 18 points and 16 rebounds during the teams’ lone meeting of the season. Marks has struggled in three of Boise State’s past four games, including a two-point effort Saturday against Air Force during which he came off the bench and didn’t play in the second half.

OTTO KITSINGER — The Associated Press


    8 p.m., Thomas & Mack Center, Las Vegas

    Radio: KBOI 670 AM, KFXD 630 AM

    Video: Mountain West Digital Network (live stream:

    Vegas line: Boise State by 15

    Series: Boise State leads 23-2 (Broncos won 76-55 in Boise on Jan. 25)

    Notable: Boise State allowed a league-worst 47.4 percent shooting percentage to opponents in conference play, allowing teams to shoot 42.3 percent or better since the Spartans shot 35.6 percent on Jan. 25, a streak of 11 games.

— After his team completed a disappointing finish to the regular season Saturday, Boise State men’s basketball coach Leon Rice said, “Now it’s time. It’s the end of the year.’’

It’s time for his Broncos to push through nagging injuries, time for the team to put together a solid 40 minutes, and time for a rare conference tournament win.

Boise State lost three of its final four games, which sent it out of a bye and into Wednesday’s first round of the Mountain West Tournament at the Thomas & Mack Center.

WATCH: Tonight's game won't be televised, but you can watch it live at

“It’s a new season, and that’s how we’re approaching it,” Rice said. “I think our guys are hungry, ready to go, and maybe a little healthier than they have been.”

The Broncos (19-12) had one of their most spirited practices in months Monday before they departed for Las Vegas on Tuesday for their 8 p.m. Wednesday game against San Jose State (7-23). The fired-up group is looking to bounce back — and hoping for improved health.

Senior guard Jeff Elorriaga has fought through a broken bone in his back the past month, and junior guard Derrick Marks did not practice last week for the first time in his career while dealing with an infected wisdom tooth. He returned to practice Monday. Rice said a change in routine has affected Marks, who has five points or less in three of the past four games.

“He’s frustrated about not being able to practice,” Rice said. “He’ll be ready to go; these guys will be ready to go. We know what a great player he is, and I think that’s what we’re going to see this weekend.”

Leading scorer Anthony Drmic has been limited in practice for nearly two months with a stress fracture in his foot and an ankle injury he suffered two weeks ago. He practiced more Monday than he had since the injury.

“Knock on wood, I hope it’s feeling a little better now — right now he’s just like, ‘I don’t care, I’m playing,’” Rice said of the junior guard/forward.

Boise State is seeking just its second conference tournament victory since the 2008 WAC Tournament. In October, before the season even began, senior forward Ryan Watkins had his sights set on making a MW tournament run.

“We haven’t won a game in the Mountain West Tournament yet,” he said. “There’s a lot of things we’re still hungry for.”

On Monday, Watkins was named second-team All-Mountain West, and he stressed the need to get a win to begin tournament play and get some momentum in a positive direction.

“I know I’m going to leave it out there; I know everyone on this team is going to leave it all out there,” Watkins said. “We know we’ve got a clean slate. We need to get rolling, and we’ll try to do that Wednesday.”

In the Broncos’ past three games, they have trailed by at least nine points in the first half before coming back and taking the lead. They went 1-2.

Boise State lost six Mountain West games by four points or less. Rice feels the confidence hasn’t wavered, and a win Wednesday could bolster it a bit. And perhaps with that, the Broncos can get one or two of those close wins they missed out on in the regular season.

“I’m looking for the ‘even out’ part,” Rice said.

Dave Southorn: 377-6420, Twitter: @IDS_Southorn

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