LAS VEGAS — Boise State's 83-52 drubbing of San Jose State on Wednesday not only gave the Broncos their first Mountain West Tournament win, but also marked something that hadn't happened in 25 years.
Boise State (20-12) has back-to-back 20-win seasons for the first time since reeling off three straight from 1986-89. Hitting the 20-win mark also means coach Leon Rice's contract gets an automatic one-year extension through 2018-19 and an $8,000 bonus.
Junior Anthony Drmic, dealing with a stress fracture in his foot, had just two points in 19 minutes, but the lone basket made him the seventh player in school history with 1,400 career points. Senior Ryan Watkins' four rebounds in 18 minutes were his fewest since Dec. 23, but gave him 795 in his career, 12 shy of moving past Bill Otey (1968-70) for second place in school history.
AN EMOTIONAL RESPONSE
San Jose State coach Dave Wojcik was a Boise State assistant for three seasons before taking over the Spartans' program this season. Shortly after he began his press conference Wednesday, he fought through tears when talking about the Broncos.
"I have a special place in my heart for those kids - I don't mean to get emotional," Wojcik said. "I hope they win it all. Those kids have worked so hard, Ryan Watkins, Jeff (Elorriaga). When they came in as freshmen, they were like these kids. They didn't know what was going on. They were getting hit from all angles. You guys remember where we were the first year in the league. We had the 'Bad News Bears' games. We would fall down, they would shoot a layup."
The Broncos held the Spartans to 28.3 percent shooting, the lowest BSU has allowed since Nevada shot 26.3 percent on Feb. 27, 2013.
"The team that's going to win this team is the best defensive team and who plays great D," Rice said. "We know that. We've approached it the right way in the first game."
The 14 points Boise State allowed at halftime were tied for the third-fewest in a half in school history, and matched the fewest since allowing 14 against Idaho State on Nov. 27, 1998. San Jose State did not score in the first 8 minutes, 43 seconds, and did not make its first field goal until 10:23 left in the first half.
"We wanted to come out and make a statement with our defense," junior Derrick Marks said.
After Boise State lost 64-61 in overtime at Air Force to finish the regular season, Rice challenged his team, saying, "I'm going to figure out who is going to have confidence enough to go down and compete in the conference tournament and who is going to let it rip in down there."
Considering his team answered with a 25-0 start Wednesday, mission accomplished.
"I challenged them because I know these guys," Rice said. "I know the three years I've had them, they respond to the challenges. They don't want me sugarcoating anything for them. I think every time I ever have challenged these guys, they step up."
Dave Southorn: 377-6420, Twitter: @IDS_Southorn