LAS VEGAS - Boise State basketball coach Leon Rice wanted an inspired, focused effort from his team Wednesday night in the Mountain West Tournament.
What he got from his Broncos was nothing short of dominance, a thorough 83-52 thrashing of San Jose State. It was the largest margin of defeat in the tournament's 15-year history, beating a 27-point win by BYU over Colorado State in 2008.
The win was Boise State's first in the Mountain West Tournament since joining the league in 2011-12, and second in any conference tournament since 2008.
Next up for Boise State (20-11) is a 9:30 p.m. MT Thursday matchup in the quarterfinals against third-seeded Nevada (15-16). The Broncos lost 83-81 in double overtime to the Wolf Pack on March 5.
Boise State lost three of four games to end the regular season - victims of slow starts - but this time came out hotter than a Vegas sidewalk in the middle of summer, taking a 25-0 lead.
"This is what we needed,'' Rice said. "Kind of what the doctor ordered as far as getting our moxie back, our mojo, with the way we started, their approach, the defense we've been working for. We were a different team tonight, no question.''
The Broncos maintained their torrid pace, playing 20 of the best minutes of the Rice era in taking a 46-14 halftime lead. The 32-point edge was the Broncos' largest in the first half against a Division I opponent since at least 1985-86, and the 14 points allowed are the third-fewest Boise State has allowed in the first half of a game.
"How about wow?'' said San Jose State coach Dave Wojcik, a former Boise State assistant. "I've never been associated with a game or seen a game that we started 25-0, spotted them 25.''
The Broncos forced the Spartans into missing their first eight field goal attempts and forced 10 turnovers in the first half. Boise State made 10 of its first 13 shots. The Broncos trailed by nine or more in the first half of its last four regular season games.
"I think it was important for us to come out with a lot of intensity,'' Boise State senior Ryan Watkins said. "Lately we've been coming out flat. To see us do that, that was a big step for us.''
There was no lull, no stepping off the gas after the staggering start.
Boise State led by as much as 42, holding the Spartans to 28.3 percent shooting, including an 0-for-14 start from 3-point range. Junior guard Derrick Marks scored the last of his 17 points with 13:15 remaining. San Jose State had 20 points as a team at that point.
After Boise State lost 64-61 in overtime at Air Force to end the regular season, Rice said, "Derrick's got to step this up.'' Marks had two points in that game and five points or less in the Broncos' 1-3 finish. On Wednesday, he was 5-of-9 from the field and 7-of-9 on free throws. Also scoring in double figures for the Broncos were Watkins (14 points), senior Thomas Bropleh (12) and junior Igor Hadziomerovic, whose 10 points was his first game in double figures since Nov. 29.
"It was men against boys, let's be real,'' said Wojcik, who played six freshmen.
It was quite the way to get the Broncos' first Mountain West Tournament win and respond from a lackluster finish to the regular season.
"Great to get that monkey off our backs,'' Watkins said. "I know all our guys wanted this win. We just got to make it carry over into the next couple of games.''