It was the type of matchup that caused Boise State basketball coach Leon Rice a little unease.
More than a week after a win over then-No. 24 Oregon, a letdown was possible. Add in a noon tipoff, only three available bench players and another 10 days until their next game, and the Broncos had to approach Sunday’s game against Bradley with extra energy.
That’s exactly what they delivered.
Tenacity was abundant on both sides of the ball in a 90-70 rout of the Braves at Taco Bell Arena, as junior forward James Webb III set the tone with a career-high 31 points.
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“You could make a list of all the excuses they could’ve had not to play well, not to be mentally ready,” Rice said. “... But our guys did a terrific job having the right mindset.”
Boise State (8-4) notched its fifth straight win with six 3-pointers, four fewer than its season average. Instead, the Broncos attacked the basket and held a 42-20 scoring edge in the paint. They also attempted 34 free throws, the most in their past 45 games, and made 28.
“We tried to work inside-out,” Webb said.
Webb was 10-of-20 from the field, adding eight rebounds, four steals and was 10-of-11 at the line. He had never attempted more than eight free throws in a game before Sunday.
“He gets a lot done, he was really efficient. ... He keeps adding to his game, that’s what’s impressive,” Rice said.
Naturally, the athletic 6-foot-9 Webb was heavily involved in the high-energy moments, part of the hustle plays that showed up all afternoon.
There was Webb’s layup with less than 13 minutes to play when he trailed senior guard Mikey Thompson on a fast break, putting it right back after Thompson’s layup was blocked.
Three minutes earlier, Webb finished off a 30-foot lob with a layup and a free throw after senior guard Lonnie Jackson sprinted to the sideline to keep a ball alive.
Jackson hit a 3-pointer just before the half for a 46-33 lead, made possible when freshmen Zach Haney and Paris Austin grabbed back-to-back offensive rebounds, finishing the possession with Austin kicking it out to Jackson for the long-distance shot.
“We realize we’re pretty much unstoppable when we get more possessions than the other team, because of the way we can score the ball,” said sophomore guard Chandler Hutchison (11 points off the bench).
Six Broncos had nine points or more as they outscored the Braves 24-1 in points off turnovers, another positive as the team hits the holiday break before returning home Dec. 30 against UC Davis.
“We’re starting to play well, starting to improve, and if we can keep doing that, ride this momentum into league,” Rice said. “We need this; we need to get rested.”
NOTES: Austin had eight rebounds in the win, after he’d pulled down 17 in his first 10 games. ... Boise State has won 14 straight home games, one shy of its best stretch under Rice. ... The Broncos are hoping to continue their Australian pipeline, as they are hosting 6-foot-6 forward Jack White, one of the top Aussie prospects in the 2016 class. He recently visited Temple and is part of a strong Australian group.