Coming off a sub-par performance, the Boise State men’s basketball team no doubt is eager to get back on the floor to turn it around, especially considering who is on deck.
After an 87-77 loss Wednesday at UNLV, attention quickly turned to the New Mexico Lobos, who come to Taco Bell Arena at 3 p.m. Saturday.
The Lobos and Broncos (15-6, 6-2 MW) will play for sole possession of second place in the Mountain West.
“I do know they’ve been playing well, that we’ll have a tough game ahead of us, and I think it’ll help us focus, especially coming off a loss,” junior forward James Webb III said.
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New Mexico (12-8, 5-2) brings a trio of high-scoring experience in guard Elijah Brown (19.8 points per game), forward Tim Williams (16.4 ppg, 7.7 rebounds per game) and guard Cullen Neal (14.2 ppg). All three are in the top 10 in the Mountain West in scoring. None played in either game against the Broncos last season. Brown and Williams, transfers from Butler and Samford, respectively, sat out as redshirts in accordance with NCAA rules, while Neal missed most of last season with an ankle injury.
“They have two of the best guards around. Both can easily go and get 30 on you; they’re playing pretty balanced,” Boise State coach Leon Rice said. “If we don’t come out and play our best, we’ll be in trouble.”
A December swoon with four straight losses saw teams hit 48-of-105 3-pointers (45.7 percent) against the Lobos, but they’ve clamped down in Mountain West play, holding opponents to 27.5 shooting from outside (47-of-171).
Historically one of the nation’s best perimeter defenses, the Lobos were gashed by the Broncos last season from deep, hitting 26-of-60 3-pointers in a two-game season sweep. Boise State has won three of the past four meetings between the two teams.
“They’re always a good team. But we’ve tried to treat every game like a big game, and that’s helped in the past and this year,” Boise State senior guard Mikey Thompson said. “... The things we didn’t do (Wednesday), rebounding, defense, not turning the ball over, that’ll be big.”
New Mexico leads the Mountain West with a 48.1 percent shooting percentage and is 47th nationally at plus-5.2 rebounds per game, but it is last in the conference and 338th nationally with 15.9 turnovers allowed per game.
Rice said the team’s recent stretch — at Wyoming last Saturday, at UNLV on Wednesday and home Saturday against New Mexico — “would test (their) mettle.” A talented, improved team awaits, and it could be the latest installment of a budding rivalry that has seen an overtime game, a one-point game and a three-point game in the past seven meetings.
“Absolutely, we’ve played some good ones with them and won’t expect any different Saturday,” Rice said.
New Mexico (12-8, 5-2 MW) at Boise State (15-6, 6-2)
- When: 3 p.m. Saturday
- Where: Taco Bell Arena
- TV: ESPN3
- Radio: KBOI 670 AM
- Tickets: $7-$18 juniors, $8-$19 seniors, $9-$20 adults at Boise State athletic box office or BroncoSports.com/tickets