Boise State seems to play its best when the chips are down. With floor leader Jeff Elorriaga unable to play the second half, still feeling the effects of a concussion, the Bronco basketball team responded with a 74-67 victory over Fresno State tonight at Taco Bell Arena.
The Broncos have an incredible free-throw shooting performance to thank for their victory. Boise State shot 26-26 tonight to shatter the existing school record. Previously, the mark was set by the Boise State teams of 1981 (vs. Montana), 1995 (also vs. Montana) and 1996 (vs. Saint Mary's), all with 8-8 performances. Derrick Marks sank 12-12, just two shy of the individual mark of 14-14 set by Gerry Washington in 1998.
The Broncos had a great stretch run after the two teams were tied at 64. Anthony Drmic hit two free throws with 1:53 left to break the tie and Coach Leon Rice's team did not let up. Ryan Watkins grabbed three key rebounds in the final minutes and Marks and Watkins each sank free throws to preserve the Bronco win.
Fresno State was the team that jumped out of the gate to grab a 14-6 lead with 12:27 left in the first half. A Rice timeout stopped that, as his team responded with a 15-4 run to take a 21-18 lead with 4:59 remaining. The Broncos then ran into the locker room with a 31-26 halftime lead.
Marks scored six points as the Broncos took their biggest lead at 39-28. Credit the feisty Bulldogs for chipping away at that lead, finally tying the game at 43 on Tyler Johnson's three-pointer. Marvell Harris sank a three of his own with 12:33 left to put Fresno up 46-43.
The teams traded baskets until Drmic nailed another three-pointer with 7:29 left to put the Broncos up 55-53. Fresno State tied the game at 59 on Allen Huddleston's three-pointer with 4:29 remaining.
Marks led Boise State with 30 points, while Drmic hit for 23 points including 5-8 from three-point land. Ryan Watkins achieved his third straight double-double with 18 rebounds and 10 points. Watkins threatened another school record, just four away from the mark of 22 set by Bill Otey in both 1968 and 1969 and Steve Wallace in 1972.
Huddleston was 6-10 from the field with five three-pointers to lead the Bulldogs with 20 points, while Johnson had 16 and Harris 10.
Now that the Bronco two-game losing streak is history, Boise State can concentrate on getting back in the conference race. Boise State is one of six teams tied at 2-2 in the Mountain West behind New Mexico, which has a perfect 4-0 mark, and 14-4 overall. To break that conference logjam, the Broncos will need to defeat Nevada this Saturday in Reno.
Fresno State slipped to 1-4 in the Mountain West and 7-11 overall.