A dominant first half turned out to be enough for the Boise State Broncos, as they held on for the 81-70 Mountain West Conference win over the tenacious Fresno State Bulldogs.
Boise State (12-4, 3-0) has won nine straight games, its longest win streak since the 1991-92 season. It posted one its best halves in recent years in its first 20 minutes, shooting 66.7 percent (18-of-27), holding Fresno State (11-6, 2-2) to just one made field goal in the last 10:20 to take a 51-32 lead at the break.
The Broncos couldn't maintain the hot start, falling into a shooting funk to start the second half, making just 1-of-14 3-pointers in the last 20 minutes. The Bulldogs slowly cut into the lead, getting within 68-64 with 4:42 to play, but the Broncos held on despite making just 15-of-27 free throws in the second half and two field goals in the last 14:21.
Junior forward James Webb III led the Broncos with 25 points and nine rebounds. Senior guard Marvelle Harris had a game-high 26 points to pace the Bulldogs.
Boise State Head Coach Leon Rice
Polar opposite of last game, tonight you had a great first half and not a great second half. How do you take in a game like this?
“It was a terrific win. I have a lot of respect for Fresno, I know how good they are and how well-coached they are. I was just really impressed with how our guys approached the first half and came out that way. Those are never easy when you’re playing a good team and you’re up, the rim becomes bigger for them and smaller for us for some reason, I don’t know it’s a basketball thing. But we did some good things in the second half, we got some stops when they started cutting into it and we stopped them just enough to get it done, and made just enough free throws down the stretch, but you got to get defensive stops and that’s what we did.”
Does this team test your blood pressure sometimes, getting big leads and they end up dwindling a little bit?
“We’re not going to make a mountain out of a mole hill, they are good competitors and they are good free throw shooters. I told them we were going to take the day off tomorrow, but after that many missed free throws…tomorrow everyone has to shoot fifty mental free throws, and report how many they made to Jeremy. I’ll be really disappointed if they don’t go fifty-for-fifty, each one of them.”
With James playing so well, where is he at from your prospective with confidence level and overall progression?
“He’s become my security blanket as far as not wanting to take him out of the game because he affects the game in so many different positive ways, he’s such a tough matchup and athletically he can go toe-to-toe with anyone. That Fresno team is a really athletic team, so you need James out there.”
Starting 0-3 in conference last year and now being 3-0 this year, how do you feel so far?
“Great. We’ve played in some tough spots and as far as playing at Utah State, and we’ve played two really good teams at home, teams that are going to beat some people. Fresno is going to beat some people, Colorado State beat UNLV and they won today. You’re just on to the next one, someone asked me about the streak we were on or whatever, and we don’t care about that. It’s nice, and that’s what we want to do, but it’s all about being 1-0, and you go 1-0 the next one, and keep preparing the way we’re preparing and keep doing some of the things that we’re doing, and keep getting better at the things I know we can get better at.”
Boise State Redshirt Junior James Webb III
Even though you shot poorly from the three-point line and the free throw line in the second half, is that a good sign, that as bad as it was you still won by double digits?
“I guess so, if your offense is bad and you still pull out a win it’s always good. We just got to pick up our free throws.”
The first half of this game was a continuation of the second half last week at Utah State. It seemed like maybe you weren’t settling for shots, and you were making those extra passes to get the ball down low and near the rim.
“I think we were making the extra pass. They were committing to our three’s even though we weren’t making them, but we had guys wide open down low – Nick with the post ups.”
That’s four out of five games you’ve had 20 points, how comfortable do you feel right now – basketball wise – compared to this time last year?
“I am more aggressive, I think the coaches and my teammates do a good job finding me. A lot of my baskets are in transition or back-door cuts, stuff like that. I just think my teammates do a good job finding me.”
Do you take any pride going head-to-head with their best player, Marvelle Harris, is that something that motivates you?
“I think so. At media day he said he wanted to guard me. Just friendly things, so I think so, it was all fun.”
Boise State Redshirt Senior Anthony Drmic
You guys built a big lead, but they eventually got back into. I don’t want to say it’s a problem, but how do you deal with it?
“We did slide a little bit defensively, but they have some good players and they made some tough shots. They got to the rim and they started scoring. Offensively we weren’t running as smoothly, and a big part of finishing games is free throws and we kind of sucked in this game with that. So all of those things combined let the lead slip, but we got the win and that’s really what matters.”
Are the free throws something you guys are going to have to address, is it an issue? Or maybe not as much since you’ve still been winning games?
“We still are grinding out the games at the end, obviously you don’t want to let a 20-point lead slip, but I feel like even when we were missing those free throws we still got some pretty big stops defensively. If we can just continue to improve defensively like I’ve said all season, then we can keep winning games like that.”
As a leader and veteran on the team, do you consciously try to take it upon yourself and turn it around for the team when a lead is slipping away like that?
“Not try to take it upon myself, but I know defense is what sparks everything. If you get a big stop defensively then that sparks the team to the other end and you get a score. I just try to do what I can defensively.”
What’s it like to have such athletic players on your team?
“It’s crazy the athleticism they have (James and Chandler), you watch them in practice sometimes and it’s just not fair. The way they can get up and dunk the ball. It’s fun having those guys on your team and they can get to the rim at will and finish, so it’s fun to watch.”
Halftime: Boise State continued its outstanding play to end its last game into Saturday’s game.
After shooting 70.8 percent in the second half of their 76-61 win at Utah State on Tuesday, the Broncos hit 66.7 percent (18-of-27) in the first half Saturday against Fresno State at Taco Bell Arena for a 51-32 lead at the break.
The Broncos made 10 of their last 14 shots to end the half, while holding the Bulldogs to just one field goal in the last 10:20. Boise State held a 26-8 advantage in points in the paint. Junior forward James Webb III led the Broncos with 18 points, while senior guard Mikey Thompson added nine and sophomore guard Chandler Hutchison had seven.
Pregame: Boise State men’s basketball team puts some impressive win streaks on the line Saturday when it hosts Fresno State, a fellow Mountain West title contender. The game is televised on ROOT.
Boise State (11-4, 2-0) has won eight in a row, seeking its first nine-game win streak since 1991-92. The Broncos had an eight-gamer last season, but the team that ended it was ... Fresno State. Boise State also has a 16-game win streak at Taco Bell Arena, tied for the second-longest in school history.
Fresno State (11-5, 2-1) is led by guard Marvelle Harris (18.4 ppg), who is the preseason Mountain West player of the year. The Bulldogs have put together their considerable talent level into a team that will no doubt vie to be the conference’s top team, as the Broncos were last season.