The Boise State men’s basketball team held Portland without a field goal in the final 4 minutes Saturday — a glimpse of the defense that helped the Broncos reach the NCAA Tournament last year and has been missing at times this year.
The Broncos have allowed 68 points per game this season and an opponent’s field-goal percentage of 43.3.
Last year, they allowed 60.1 points per game and 41.6 percent shooting.
“(Coaches) have been harping on us to basically toughen up, play with grit and defend,” senior guard Mikey Thompson said. “... We have a length and speed advantage against most teams and we just have to have that pride and toughness to defend. Once we do that, we can stop anybody.”
The Broncos (5-4) open a five-game homestand Wednesday against Loyola Marymount (5-3). The game begins at 7 p.m. at Taco Bell Arena.
No. 24 Oregon visits at 5 p.m. Saturday (CBS Sports Network).
The Broncos, who have three losses to top-15 teams and already have played in four states outside of Idaho, have started to settle into their substitution patterns, which should help the defense.
“(Chemistry) is huge, and part of that chemistry is us figuring out the rotations and who fits well together,” coach Leon Rice said.
The Broncos also are working in some fresh faces. True freshman guard Paris Austin was benched after a brief appearance against Portland.
The reason? Defense.
“I hope to God it was a onetime thing because it was a bad (three) minutes defensively,” Rice said, “and he knows that.”
On the offensive end, Rice wants his team to become more versatile. The Broncos have taken 45 percent of their shots from outside the 3-point line this season. They’ve made 36.4 percent, which is down from 39.2 last year.
“We fall in love with the 3-point line sometimes and shoot a lot of them,” Rice said, “which is fine because we can make a lot of them. But we’ve got to love the rim and like the 3.”
Loyola Marymount (5-3) at BSU (5-4)
- When: 7 p.m. Wednesday
- Where: Taco Bell Arena
- Video: BroncoSports. com/videos (free)
- Radio: KBOI (670 AM); Bob Behler and Abe Jackson
- Series: Boise State leads 4-2. The Broncos won the last meeting 77-69 on Nov. 15, 2014, in Los Angeles.
- Notable: Boise State has scored at least 100 points in its first three home games this season. The school record for 100-point games in a season is four.