Post-New Mexico notes: Elorriaga toughs it out; break comes at key time

In Boise State’s 71-70 win over New Mexico on Wednesday, it was fitting that the Broncos’ “glue guy” made an appearance in a game that ended a three-game losing streak.

Senior Jeff Elorriaga played just 2 minutes Wednesday after missing the second half Feb. 1 at UNLV with a back injury, plus all of Feb. 5′s loss to San Diego State and Saturday’s loss at Utah State.
Elorriaga did not score in those 120 or so seconds, but the fact he played meant the world to coach Leon Rice.

“Jeff Elorriaga played with a broken back — he’s literally broke his back for this program,” Rice said.
After the win, Elorriaga posted this tweet:

Elorriaga tweet

New Mexico was 14-0 this season when shooting a better percentage than its opponents. The Lobos shot 51.2 percent, compared to the Broncos’ 39.7 percent.

Make that 14-1.

The Broncos were 5-23 when shooting below 40 percent under Rice.

Make that 6-23.

Add in that New Mexico shot 10 more free throws than the Broncos, and the shooting stats sure imply a Lobo rout. But Boise State took 58 field goals to New Mexico’s 43, thanks to a 35-25 rebounding edge. The Broncos had 12 offensive rebounds to the Lobos’ two. Boise State also hit 11 3-pointers, five more than New Mexico.

For the second straight home game, senior Thomas Bropleh hit a bankshot 3-pointer in the second half. On Feb. 5 against San Diego State, it put the Broncos up 14 with less than 14 minutes to go — but it was followed by a major drought. On Wednesday, it cut the Lobos’ lead to 60-59 with 8:12 to play. A minute later, Ryan Watkins gave the Broncos a 61-60 lead, their first since going up 12-11 just 6:09 into the game.

“Those are the ones you need … it kind of evens out, and that’s things evening out a little bit,” Rice said.

Click here for my game story from last night.

Check out a photo gallery from last night’s game here from our own Kyle Green.

Coming up in the next few days, I’ll have stories on the bench (which outscored New Mexico’s 24-2), and on Bropleh, who has been outstanding in the last half of his final season.

Before Derrick Marks hit his go-ahead free throws with 13.4 seconds to play, Bropleh reminded him this situation was nothing new — he once hit 22-of-22 free throws in a high school game. Marks made 8-of-8 on Wednesday, including the two biggest of the game, and possibly the season.

“I reminded him right before, said ‘you never miss one, you shot 22 and didn’t miss one in high school,’” Bropleh said.

Hugh Greenwood, whose jumper in the final seconds was off the mark for New Mexico, had routinely been a pain in the Broncos’ side — he had scored in double figures in four of the Lobos’ previous five games against the Broncos, averaging 12.8 points and 6.2 rebounds per game in those contests. He hit double digits only 14 times in his other 82 career games before Wednesday. He had a career-high 20 points Jan. 21 in Albuquerque against the Broncos, but did not double digits after that. He had only four points and three rebounds Wednesday.

The Broncos won’t play again until Tuesday night at Colorado State (ESPN3, 7 p.m. MT). It comes at a perfect time, off an emotional win, and a chance for Elorriaga and the like to get some rest.
“Personally, my body needs the rest,” said junior Anthony Drmic, who had 18 points, nearly 10 better than he had been averaging against UNM.

With six games left before the conference tournament, the Broncos said they hope the win Wednesday sparks a late surge.

“We’ve got to get the momentum from this win, head to Colorado State in a week and hopefully get another win and keep it rolling,” Drmic said. “If you go into the conference tournament hot, you’ve got a good chance of winning it.”

Soon after saying that, Drmic tweeted this:

Drmic tweet

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