Boise State men’s basketball readies for another ‘battle’ with San Diego State

The tournament floor was purchased by the Mountain West last year. It was previously used at the 2012 Women's Final Four.

The tournament floor was purchased by the Mountain West last year. It was previously used at the 2012 Women’s Final Four. The Reno Gazette Journal had a story about the court’s history. (Photo from the Mountain West)

Boise State ready for San Diego State

The Boise State Broncos’ men’s basketball team will face the San Diego State Aztecs for the sixth time in the past two seasons Wednesday night in Las Vegas (10 p.m. MST, 670 AM, CBS Sports Network). Four of the five prior meetings have been decided by 10 points total. It’s fitting they’ll open Mountain West tournament play against one another.

“We know what great competitors they are, and that’s what makes it so fun … there’s a good respect there between the two teams,” Boise State coach Leon Rice said. “It’s amazing. The good thing is we got over the hump a bit the last game.

“I’d expect nothing less than a great battle.”

The respect is mutual — Aztecs coach Steve Fisher, in his 14th season at the school, and the coach of the Fab Five at Michigan in the early 1990s, had high praise for Rice and the Broncos.

“Leon Rice has done a magnificent job with that team, laden with young players,” Fisher said.

In the teams’ last meeting, just four days ago, the Broncos beat the Aztecs for the first time in a 69-65 victory at Taco Bell Arena. Playing the Aztecs back-to-back is unique, but the recency is a good thing in Rice’s mind, as is knowing what the game could do for the Broncos’ NCAA hopes — a win would solidify a spot in the field of 68.

“The positive is that you just prepared for them, so you’re not starting from scratch,” Rice said. “… there’s a clear sense of what’s on the line.”

Boise State guard Jeff Elorriaga knows that a loss Wednesday would mean a very uncomfortable period until Selection Sunday.

“We know we have to take care of our own business, if we keep winning, I’m sure we’ll get in,” Elorriaga said. “… we want to be down in Vegas as long as we can. That Selection Sunday, you want to go into it feeling good. A loss Wednesday would definitely hurt.”

The Aztecs have made four straight Mountain West tournament championship games, and the Broncos know if they can come out hot like they did Saturday, they must maintain it. They led 31-15 late in the first half.

“You’ve got to close the door on those teams. … if we get a big lead, we’ve got to keep pushing and let them back in,” Elorriaga said.

Rice said the 9 p.m. tipoff in Las Vegas is something he enjoys.

“I love it … when you’re the last game, you feel like it’s building up to that,” he said.

Here are Boise State’s results against San Diego State the past two seasons:

Feb. 1, 2012 (Viejas Arena) — No. 17 San Diego State 58, Boise State 56
-Thomas Bropleh’s 3-point attempt at the buzzer rimmed out as the Broncos’ upset bid fell just short.

Feb. 29, 2012 (Taco Bell Arena) — No. 21 San Diego State 66, Boise State 53
-The Aztecs led by 16 at halftime and kept the foot on the gas. Boise State shot 2-of-16 from 3-point range.

March 8, 2012 (MW tournament) — No. 18 San Diego State 65, Boise State 62
-The Aztecs’ Jamaal Franklin hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to let top-seeded San Diego State advance out of the quarterfinals.

Feb. 6, 2013 (Viejas Arena) — San Diego State 63, Boise State 62
-Chase Tapley hit a 3-pointer with less than 3 seconds left to lift the Aztecs to the win. Boise State erased a 10-point halftime deficit to get within grasp of the win.

March 9, 2013 (Taco Bell Arena) — Boise State 69, San Diego State 65
-Derrick Marks had 22 of his 27 points in the second half and had a key block with less than a minute to play. Anthony Drmic added 23 points.

In case you missed it, here are my two most recent stories:

A look at Leon Rice’s building project at Boise State, which is ahead of schedule.

Jeff Elorriaga isn’t the biggest Bronco, but he might be the toughest.

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