Facing the best tends to up the effort level a little bit, and there’s some extra inspiration for Boise State against San Diego State considering the teams’ recent history.
The Broncos are 3-7 against the Aztecs in Mountain West games, but the grand total of the scores combined has been 618-617. Seven of the 10 games have been decided by six points or fewer. San Diego State has been the template for success in the league, and it’s something the Broncos are starting to reach with two NCAA Tournaments the last three seasons and 18 wins in their last 19 regular season conference games.
“That’s what we’re shooting for ... I think it always brings out the best in our guys,” Boise State coach Leon Rice said.
A big crowd is expected at Taco Bell Arena, as is often the case against San Diego State, and Rice doesn’t see the pattern of recent history change.
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“(Aztecs) coach (Steve) Fisher always points that out to me, all the battles we’ve had,” Rice said. “It doesn’t go down to the last minute, it goes down to the last shot, a bunch of them in a row, it’s pretty remarkable. I expect nothing less.”
In tomorrow’s Statesman, I’ll write about a slight role reversal the Broncos are facing this season. They’re the hunted, not the hunters. After beating San Diego State just once in their first eight meetings, they won both last season by double digits. They’re the defending Mountain West regular season champions, and off to a 4-0 start in league games. The team is still trying to keep the same mentality it had last year, sneaking up a bit on some teams.
“The moment you let your guard down, that’s when you’re going to lose,” Rice said.
Boise State reported 10,100 tickets out for the 8 p.m. MT Saturday tip against the Aztecs. The game will be televised on ESPN2, but the broadcast crew will be based in Bristol, Conn., and not present in Boise.
A quick look at the Aztecs (11-6, 4-0):
-As usual, San Diego State had a challenging nonconference slate, losing to ranked foes Kansas, Utah and West Virginia, but beating then-No. 13 California. Losses to Little Rock, Grand Canyon and San Diego were shockers, however, as the team had some brutal offensive showings.
-Freshman guard Jeremy Hemsley leads the team with 13.6 points per game, while senior Winston Shepard averages 10.3 ppg and 5.6 rpg. The Aztecs are shooting 31 percent from 3-point range (93-of-300), but opponents as a whole are just 36.6 percent from the field.
-The Aztecs are plus-5.1 rebounds per game overall and tied with the Broncos for No. 1 in the league at plus-9.2 per game in Mountain West games. Boise State had a 42-30 rebounding edge last season at Viejas Arena.
“What they hang their hat on is their defense and rebounding, that’s why they’re so consistent, that’s why they go on the road and win year in and year out,” Rice said.