Boise State Basketball

Boise State makes strong first impression with 61-point romp in exhibition opener

The Boise State men’s basketball team was supposed to win its exhibition game with ease, and that’s exactly what the Broncos did Thursday night at ExtraMile Arena.

But what does a 95-34 victory over West Coast Baptist — a private college based in Lancaster, California, that competes in the Pacific Christian Athletic Conference — really reveal about the 2019-20 Broncos?

“It’s not about the opponent. It’s not about who you play,” Boise State coach Leon Rice said. “It’s about getting these guys under the lights, getting that little nervousness and those first pregame jitters off and playing in front of some music and some people, so mission accomplished there.”

Boise State scored the first 17 points of the game, shot 54.5 percent from the field, outrebounded the Eagles 51-23 and had 24 assists on 36 baskets. Here are the key takeaways from the Broncos’ Halloween night romp.

Starting lineup skews swift, small

Small, in this case, is a relative term.

Rice sent Marcus Dickinson, Justinian Jessup, RJ Williams, Derrick Alston and Alex Hobbs out for Thursday’s opening tip.

With that lineup on the court, the 6-foot-7 Williams anchors the Broncos’ interior, and Alston is the tallest of the group at 6-9.

“You’re not that small, but you’re just not physically imposing,” Rice said. “But you’ve got a high level of skill and if we can develop our toughness and our scrappiness, then you can play that way.”

Alston led the way with 16 points, seven rebounds, six assists and two blocked shots in a little more than 20 minutes of action. Williams collected a double-double with 14 points and 11 boards, and Jessup connected on 3-of-4 attempts from beyond the arc for 11 points.

“In a game like this, you don’t want it to just break down where it looks like an open gym,” Rice said. “I thought that first unit that we had in there did a great job of that. They started out 17-0 and they were so solid defensively. They were efficient offensively, and they were making the right plays.”

Broncos could have deeper bench

Four minutes and two Alston dunks into the game, Rice turned to his bench.

Redshirt freshman Max Rice — the middle of Leon Rice’s three sons — was the first reserve to check into the game. Redshirt senior Robin Jorch, redshirt freshman Riley Abercrombie and true freshman RayJ Dennis followed a little more than a minute later.

“Sitting out for a year is tough,” said Jorch, who was recovering from shoulder surgery last season. “Finally to be back on the court, it felt great.”

Jorch and Dennis ended up being the Broncos’ top contributors off the bench, scoring 15 and 14 points, respectively. Rice added seven points and five rebounds, and Abercrombie recovered from an 0-for-5 first half for six points and nine rebounds. Eleven Broncos in all got on the floor, including walk-ons Bing Huang and Chase Berry.

Boise State’s bench play last season was unpredictable, but Rice feels confident this year’s reserves can perform when called upon.

“Those guys can come in and make shots,” Rice said. “Riley and Max didn’t shoot the ball well tonight, and they had great looks. It wasn’t because they didn’t have good looks. I think they were just a little too excited, a little too jazzed up and ready to go. ... Those two will come in and shoot 10,000 shots in the next two days, because they won’t let that happen again.”

Why didn’t the transfers play?

Guard Marcus Shaver Jr. (Portland) and forward Mladen Armus (East Tennessee State) will sit out this season per NCAA rules.

Abu Kigab joined Boise State in January of 2019 after playing the first half of the 2018-19 season at Oregon. The 6-6 junior forward will be eligible to play for the Broncos after the first semester, likely in time for the 2019 Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu, which runs Dec. 22-25.

The NCAA recently denied Boise State’s transfer waiver request for Emmanuel Akot (Arizona). The Broncos have filed an appeal on his behalf and hope to know soon if Akot will be eligible to contribute this season.

“The great thing is we’ve got one of the best scout teams in the country right now, so we get after it pretty good in practice,” Rice said.

News & notes

The Broncos officially open the season Tuesday in a doubleheader with the women’s team, which hosts Lewis-Clark State at 5:30 p.m. The men follow against Life Pacific at approximately 8 p.m. All fans who arrive to the women’s game before halftime will receive free admission to the men’s game. Adult general admission to the women’s game is $6, and youth and senior tickets are $4 ... Boise State held West Coast Baptist to 24.1 percent from the floor. The Eagles didn’t score their first points until the 13:28 mark of the first half. ... The 3-point line was moved back this season to the international distance of 22 feet, 1 3/4 inches.

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