Boise State was held to a season-low 55 points Tuesday against a Kentucky squad with three starting guards who are 6-foot-6, a 6-9 forward who could be next year’s No. 1 pick in the NBA draft in Julius Randle, and a 7-foot center who blocked nine shots in Willie Cauley-Stein.
The Broncos made 5-of-17 3-pointers after coming into the game averaging 8.3 makes on 20.5 attempts per game. That was due in part to Kentucky’s athletic defense making up for small mistakes and recovering quickly if a player was open on the perimeter, and a bit of a case of sometimes having players try to do to much on their own.
“They spread the court,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said. “They can shoot 3s. I told them before the game, I told coach (Rice), ‘You guys run the dribble‑drive better than we ran it back in Memphis.’
“The guys, (Derrick) Marks, who can get to his left hand, No. 3 (Anthony Drmic), No. 11 (Jeff Elorriaga). They missed some 3s they normally make. (The) game would have been closer.”
The Wildcats were coming off a loss to Baylor last Friday, and Rice noted that it “recalibrated” things for the Wildcats.
Boise State never let it get out of hand Tuesday, getting within seven points with less than 14 minutes to go, and within 11 with 8:36 to go before the Wildcats got four points on an Andrew Harrison jumper and a Julius Randle dunk off Harrison’s missed free throw.
“I liked the way we battled — we always battle,” Rice said. “I think the bad hop was them losing to Baylor.”
The six free throw attempts the Broncos had Tuesday tied for the fewest in a single game in the 106 games of the Rice era. It had happened previously on Jan. 17, 2012 at Colorado State and Jan. 9, 2013 at Wyoming. The Broncos were able to drive, but the Wildcats got hands and arms on the ball instead of their bodies colliding with the Broncos.
“It’s their length and athleticism … when you drive, it’s not easy to find kickouts either because there’s long arms everywhere,” Rice said.
Just as Boise State can be a “pick your poison” sort of offense, the Wildcats’ offense was the same Tuesday as guard James Young had 21 points, hitting four 3-pointers (all in the first half).
“If you don’t do that, Julius Randle gets 30,” Rice said.
Coverage from Tuesday in Lexington:
A photo gallery from Statesman photographer Kyle Green
My game story
Rice’s son Max got a unique opportunity at the game
A replay of our online chat with Rice
Column from the Louisville Courier-Journal