“You never know what you’re going to get.”
The famed Hollywood phrase applies to boxes of chocolate, and basketball teams coming off extended holiday breaks, in the words of Boise State coach Leon Rice.
The Broncos beat UC Davis 64-56 on Wednesday night for a win that may have tasted like a piece of chocolate with toothpaste in it.
But the last few minutes, they were delicious. Tied with less than eight minutes to play, Boise State broke it open with its best stretch of the game after a sluggish start at Taco Bell Arena.
“Our guys woke up, got back from Christmas a little late, seemed like, but you’ve got to credit our guys, too — they got the job done, and that’s the important thing,” Rice said.
The victory, the Broncos’ 15th straight at home, finished an unbeaten December for the Broncos (9-4). In just their second game in 17 days, the holiday break resulted in a little rust, eventually shaken off when it mattered most.
Trailing the Aggies (4-8) at the half and for a nine-minute stretch of the second half, the Broncos put together a key 12-1 run, turning a 48-46 deficit with 8:44 left into a 58-49 lead with 5:14 remaining.
“We knew we had to pick it up, we were always a step behind,” junior forward James Webb III said. “We just got our energy up, played with a lot of enthusiasm, things like that.”
UC Davis led for nearly 28 minutes, while Boise State was on top for 9:10. It was the sort of start Rice feared after he said Tuesday: “As a coach you are a little bit worried about that many days off.”
In the first 12:10, the Aggies had a 13-4 rebounding edge and led for the last 18:47 of the first half, getting up by as much as 29-20 before the Broncos closed the half on a 9-2 run. Forward Neal Monson had 11 points and five rebounds in those first 12:10, but sat the rest of the half after getting his third foul.
“That early foul trouble certainly changed the dynamic of our team,” UC Davis coach Jim Les said.
Boise State pulled down 24 of the last 36 rebounds, paced by Webb’s nine. He also had 23 points, following up his 31 points Dec. 20 against Bradley. Webb’s family from Georgia was on hand to see the win and his latest strong showing.
“They don’t like the snow, though,” Webb said with a laugh.
The Webb family no doubt enjoyed the result, even if it was at times a little stressful, in addition to their favorite player’s performance. Boise State’s 64 points were a season-low. Senior guard/forward Anthony Drmic had 14 points, giving him 1,701 for his career, fourth in school history. He’s only the third Mountain West player with 1,500 points, 500 rebounds, 200 assists and 100 steals.
“Our energy was a little flat. ... We picked it up toward the end, definitely need to work on that,” said Drmic, whose 3-pointer with 7:28 left gave Boise State the lead for good.
After a tougher-than-expected-test from the Aggies, the Broncos enter the gauntlet — Mountain West play, starting Saturday against Colorado State at Taco Bell Arena.
“It’s good to have that game under our belt, because we knew it was going to happen eventually, so it’s good to get that out of the way, because you can’t let up in the Mountain West,” Webb said.
HEYER SIGNS WITH TASMANIAN TEAM
Former Boise State forward Rob Heyer will begin his pro career in February after it was announced Wednesday he signed with the Latrobe Demons of the North-West Basketball Union in Tasmania.
Nine other former Broncos are playing professionally in six countries.
Mountain West opener is Saturday
▪ Teams: Colorado State (8-5) at Boise State (9-4), 5 p.m., Taco Bell Arena
▪ TV: ESPN3
▪ Radio: KBOI 670 AM
▪ Tickets: $7-$18 for juniors, $8-$19 for seniors, $9-$20 for adults at Taco Bell Arena box office or BroncoSports.com/tickets