In a league filled with dynamic duos, perhaps none is more vital to a team’s success or failure than Nevada’s Malik Story and Deonte Burton.
The Wolf Pack pair is fifth and seventh, respectively, in scoring among Mountain West players, and their 34.2 points per game represent just more than half of Nevada’s 68.2 points per game. The duo will face Boise State tonight at 6 p.m. at Taco Bell Arena.
“Story and Burton create so many problems … those two can do it at a high level and score a lot of points,” Boise State coach Leon Rice said.
When Boise State played at Nevada on Jan. 26, a 75-59 loss for the Broncos, Story and Burton combined for 33 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists.
“Both of them are great in transition, both can shoot — we just can’t give them easy looks, and hopefully they have a bad night (Wednesday),” Boise State guard Derrick Marks said.
The Broncos were without Jeff Elorriaga in that loss, and his presence should make a difference, as the team shot just 19 percent (4-for-21) on 3-pointers. Nevada also outscored Boise State 16-2 on fastbreaks.
“They hurt us a lot in transition, so that’s been a big focus for us this week,” forward Ryan Watkins said.
If it weren’t for New Mexico’s Kendall Williams’ 46-point night Saturday at Colorado State, the Mountain West player of the week likely would have gone to Boise State’s Anthony Drmic.
The sophomore had 51 points in two games last week on 15-of-25 shooting (18-of-23 on free throws), with eight rebounds. He had 46 points in the second half of those two games, which were won by a combined 21 points, though the halftime margin in each game was one point.
“He’s playing out of his mind right now,” Marks said.
Drmic had 28 points Saturday despite not making a 3-pointer, which is a change from a player who had 51.4 percent of his field goals last season come via the 3-pointer. Rice said Drmic has been more aggressive (he’s attempted 117 free throws this season, compared to 94 last season), and a focus on improving balance and strength has paid off.
“Last year, it was all or nothing on 3-pointers … when you attack the basket, you’re going to get bumped,” Rice said. “We had to get him a little stronger. He’s definitely grown in that aspect.”
A few updates on some notable bracket projections: ESPN.com’s Joe Lunardi has Boise State as one of his “Next Four Out.” SI.com’s Andy Glockner has the Broncos as a No. 11 seed. USA Today’s Patrick Stevens has the Broncos as one of his “First Four Out.”