The most difficult November in Boise State basketball history will conclude Sunday with the Broncos’ matchup against No. 11 Arizona in the Wooden Legacy.
In a little more than a week, Boise State has packed in enough difficult opponents to fill a full nonconference slate. The Broncos played at Arizona on Nov. 19, faced Big West champion UC Irvine on Thursday and No. 3 Michigan State on Friday.
“Boise State, we don’t usually get a lot of top 25 teams, but to get three top-15 teams in two weeks, that’s really exciting and I know we’re up for it (Sunday),” sophomore guard Chandler Hutchison said.
Never before had Boise State played three ranked nonconference teams in one regular season, and still, No. 21 Oregon is set to visit Boise on Dec. 12.
“We’re going to look back at this stretch and be amazed,” Boise State coach Leon Rice said. “It’s been tough, but we’ve put together a lot of really, really good stretches.”
Sunday’s third-place game against the Wildcats at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif., will give the Broncos a chance to put together a complete game they have lacked against those ranked teams. In Tucson last week, they were within five with 5:30 to play, but lost 88-76. Against Michigan State, a 10-0 Spartan run midway through the second half came after the Broncos cut the lead to one in an eventual 77-67 loss.
“You can get away winning games against teams a little below these ones with 36 good minutes, but you can’t against Arizona and Michigan State,” Rice said. “It’s good to get another chance quickly, stay in that mindset. It makes it a little easier because we know who they are now, don’t have to go from scratch. I’d have loved to play (Saturday), but our guys needed the rest. They gave it their all against Michigan State.”
In the teams’ prior meeting, junior forward James Webb III had 27 points, but the Wildcats hit 10-of-21 3-pointers to pull away.
“James had a great game last time, we know he’s able to do it again, but we can’t just expect it, the rest of us know we have to step up,” Hutchison said. “We know where we had some flaws defensively, know what they were and minimize those.
“We haven’t played on this floor, and neither have they. I’d rather have that than play them there again.”
Other than playing the Wildcats away from home, where they have the nation’s longest winning streak, 7-foot center Kaleb Tarczewski may not be available with an ankle injury he suffered Thursday. He didn’t play Friday in the Wildcats’ 69-65 loss to Providence. He had nine rebounds against the Broncos and has been the team’s defensive stalwart.
“I think he’s a crucial part of their team, a big part of the leadership, and he’s a tough kid. He’s a big part of their identity,” Rice said.
Regardless of whether Arizona’s big man plays or not, Boise State is well-prepared for the talent level, and with their game against the Wildcats so recent, the Broncos are eager for the rematch.
“We knew playing there was going to be really tough, but if we got them here, it would be a lot more even and a good opportunity we have to take advantage of,” Hutchison said.
Boise State (3-3) vs. No. 11 Arizona (5-1)
Sunday, 2:30 p.m. MT; Honda Center (Anaheim, Calif.)
Radio: KBOI 670 AM