Boise State Basketball

Boise State men come away with ‘golden nugget’ in Mountain West opener at Wyoming

Rice praises Boise State’s defensive effort in win at Wyoming

Boise State men's basketball coach Leon Rice discusses the Broncos' 69-55 victory over Wyoming on Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2019, at Arena-Auditorium in Laramie, Wyoming.
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Boise State men's basketball coach Leon Rice discusses the Broncos' 69-55 victory over Wyoming on Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2019, at Arena-Auditorium in Laramie, Wyoming.

As Marcus Dickinson walked past Boise State men’s basketball coach Leon Rice on his way out of Arena-Auditorium, Rice lit up with a big smile and gave Dickinson a hearty handshake.

“We’ve got something here with him the way he’s guarding,” Rice said.

Dickinson led a stout defensive effort in the Broncos’ Mountain West Conference opener at Wyoming on Wednesday night, holding Cowboys senior standout Justin James to a single field goal in a 69-55 victory.

James entered the matchup averaging a league-leading 22.4 points per game, but he went just 1-for-14 from the field and tallied a season-low seven points with Dickinson on his tail.

“We’re becoming a really good defensive team. We’re hanging our hat on it,” Rice said. “... And it’s not just all (Dickinson). We’ve got a team of guys that are buying into it. Different teams are going to have different strengths. I don’t think this is a team that’s going to go get 90 every night like some of the teams I’ve had, but they’ve got their own different strengths, and defense is starting to show up as one.”

After going 5-8 over the course of their nonconference schedule — the Broncos’ worst start under Rice — Boise State treated the beginning of conference play as an opportunity to hit the reset button on the 2018-19 season.

The approach worked, as the Broncos committed a season-low six turnovers and thrived with a well-rounded effort that saw eight different Broncos score and nine log minutes.

Junior guard Alex Hobbs paced Boise State (6-8, 1-0 MW) with 17 points, seven rebounds, six assists and two steals, and Justinian Jessup (14) and Derrick Alston (10) also reached double figures.

“I’ve been in this league awhile now, and if you can get a road Mountain West win, it’s like a golden nugget,” Rice said. “You don’t find them very often.”

The Broncos and Cowboys (4-10, 0-1) missed a combined nine shots to start the game, but Boise State recovered with scoring runs of 8-0 and 10-0 to take a 33-22 lead at the half. The 11-point advantage at the break was a season-best as Boise State held Wyoming without a field goal for the final 7:13 of the first half.

Meanwhile, the Broncos dissected Wyoming’s zone defense for a series of easy buckets as Alston took advantage of a soft spot at the top of the key.

“We got really good looks against their zone. They were letting it into the high post,” Jessup said. “I think once (Alston) saw they weren’t going to guard him in the high post, he’s like, ‘OK, I’ll take layups.’ Then once they started to sink in, we got open threes. Then it was just moving the ball from there on out.”

Jessup made four of Boise State’s eight 3-pointers, finishing 4-for-7 from beyond the arc. Hobbs had two, and Dickinson and Dembley one apiece.

“I told them before the game, if we miss shots, I don’t care,” Rice said. “We’re just going to be consistent with our D, and that’s what we did. The other thing we did well was we really took care of the basketball. Six turnovers — three in each half — that was big-time.”

The Broncos returned to Boise on a chartered plane Wednesday night. They’ll host San Diego State — the reigning Mountain West Tournament champion — at 8 p.m. Saturday at Taco Bell Arena. The game will be televised on the CBS Sports Network and available on the radio at 670 AM.

The Aztecs and Broncos split their meetings last season, with each team winning at home. Boise State’s 83-80 victory on Jan. 13, 2018, was the matchup in which current Chicago Bull Chandler Hutchison set the program’s single-game record with 44 points. The Broncos then lost 72-64 in San Diego on Feb. 27, 2018.

Saturday’s game will be the league opener for San Diego State (8-5), which was picked to finish second in the preseason media poll.

“It’s San Diego State. They’re always a good team, a physical team. They’re usually really good defensively with athletic, long guys,” Hobbs said. “So that’s what you have to be prepared for.

“They’re one of the top teams in the league historically, but as of late, so are we.”

Women: BSU 72, Wyoming 64

The Boise State women’s basketball team rose to the occasion last season when pressed for the Mountain West Conference title in the regular-season finale at Wyoming.

The Broncos did so again in the championship game of the 2018 Mountain West Tournament, scoring as the buzzer sounded to beat Nevada and advance to the NCAA Tournament for the third time in four seasons.

So it came as no surprise to see the Broncos recover from a sub-par first half for a victory over Wyoming in both teams’ league opener Wednesday at Taco Bell Arena.

Boise State shot just 35.7 percent from the field and trailed 29-28 at halftime. The Broncos (10-2, 1-0 MW) then scored 44 points in the second half while shooting 58.1 percent from the floor.

“I know us juniors hadn’t beaten Wyoming on our home court yet, so that was a really big deal for us to get this one at home,” Boise State’s Riley Lupfer said in a postgame press release. “It’s always good to start 1-0 in conference play.”

Lupfer, the preseason pick for Mountain West Player of the Year, matched her season high with 22 points, including four 3-pointers. Sophomore forward Tess Amundsen returned from a six-game injury absence to go 4-for-6 from the field for 10 points, while junior guard Braydey Hodgins scored six of her eight points on a pair of 3-pointers down the stretch.

“When teams try to take away Riley, we try to put Riley in a pick-and-roll,” Boise State coach Gordy Presnell said. “Tess is the best 3-point shooter we have in that trail post spot, so we put those two together in pick-and-rolls, pick-and-pops, and that’s what we got out there with Tess.”

Boise State finished with 10 3-pointers for a critical victory over a Wyoming team (7-3, 0-1) that entered the day ranked 34th in the RPI.

The Broncos continue Mountain West play Saturday at San Diego State (5-6, 0-0). Tipoff is 2 p.m. MT at Viejas Arena.


BOISE STATE (6-8, 1-0 MW)

Alex Hobbs 7-14 1-1 17; Justinian Jessup 4-8 2-2 14; Derrick Alston 5-8 0-0 10; Pat Dembley 4-8 0-1 9; RJ Williams 3-5 1-2 7; David Wacker 0-2 5-7 5; Zach Haney 1-5 2-2 4; Marcus Dickinson 1-7 0-0 3; Malek Harwell 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 25-59 11-15 69.

WYOMING (4-10, 0-1 MW)

Trace Young 6-8 1-1 16; Jordan Naughton 2-4 6-6 10; A.J. Banks 2-2 4-4 8; Justin James 1-14 4-4 7; Hunter Thompson 1-6 3-5 6; TJ Taylor 1-3 2-2 4; Brandon Porter 1-3 1-2 4. Totals 14-40 21-24 55.

Boise State................... 33 36 — 69

Wyoming....................... 22 33 — 55

3-point goals — Boise State 8-26 (Jessup 4-7; Hobbs 2-5; Dembley 1-3; Dickinson 1-6; Harwell 0-2; Williams 0-2; Alston 0-1), Wyoming 6-16 (Young 3-4; Porter 1-2; James 1-5; Thompson 1-3; Taylor 0-2). Fouled out — Boise State-Alston, Jessup, Wyoming-None. Rebounds — Boise State 33 (Wacker 7; Hobbs 7), Wyoming 30 (James 14). Assists — Boise State 13 (Hobbs 6), Wyoming 7 (James 3). Total fouls — Boise State 19, Wyoming 15. Technical fouls — None. A — 3,395.



Taylor Rusk 8-12 0-0 18; Marta Gomez 6-13 0-0 15; Karla Erjavec 5-13 0-0 10; Quinn Weidemann 4-7 0-0 9; Clara Tapia 3-5 0-1 6; Bailee Cotton 0-7 4-8 4; Sladjana Rakovic 1-2 0-0 2; Tereza Vitulova 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 27-60 4-9 64.


Riley Lupfer 8-18 2-2 22; Tess Amundsen 4-6 0-1 10; Jayde Christopher 4-6 0-0 9; Braydey Hodgins 2-8 2-4 8; Marta Hermida 3-4 0-0 7; Rachel Bowers 2-4 2-2 6; Joyce Harrell 3-4 0-0 6; A’Shanti Coleman 2-5 0-0 4; Jade Loville 0-2 0-0 0; Ellie Woerner 0-2 0-0 0; Sofia Galeron 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 28-59 6-9 72.

Wyoming....................... 12 17 14 21 — 64

Boise St...................... 15 13 21 23 — 72

3-point goals — Wyoming 6-19 (Gomez 3-8; Rusk 2-3; Weidemann 1-4; Cotton 0-1; Tapia 0-1; Erjavec 0-2), Boise St. 10-24 (Lupfer 4-10; Amundsen 2-3; Hodgins 2-4; Hermida 1-2; Christopher 1-2; Loville 0-1; Woerner 0-1; Coleman 0-1). Fouled out — None. Rebounds — Wyoming 31 (Cotton 14), Boise St. 30 (Harrell 9). Assists — Wyoming 9 (Tapia 5), Boise St. 15 (Christopher 6). Total fouls — Wyoming 11, Boise St. 15. Technical fouls — None. A — 1,097.

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Rachel Roberts has been covering sports for the Idaho Statesman since 2005. She attended Northwest Nazarene University and is Boise born and raised.