On their own the numbers were staggering — 22 rebounds, 11 offensive and 11 defensive.
Add in the fact Boise State’s Ryan Watkins did it Tuesday as New Mexico 7-footer Alex Kirk and 6-9 forward Cameron Bairstow were giving themselves up for the rebound, and it’s all the more impressive.
Those 22 rebounds were tied for the most in the NCAA this season (and most since Jan. 3, 2013), according to Boise State. They were two shy of the school record, set in 1969, and most since at least 1985-86, as far back as Boise State game-by-game records exist. The last time a Bronco had 20 or more rebounds was March 8, 2005, when Jason Ellis did so against Tulsa.
“It just makes me proud of him as a coach, because he’s maximizing every bit of talent, and he’s doing to help his teammates — that effort shows,” Boise State coach Leon Rice said.
Watkins’ 14.2 rebounds per game in Mountain West play are No. 1. For the season, he is averaging a double-double — 10.8 points and 10.4 rebounds per game. His 15 points to go with his 22 rebounds Tuesday gave him his eighth double-double of the year. He had six coming into this season.
As one veteran stepped up Tuesday, so did a newcomer. Six-foot-8 freshman Nick Duncan had 16 points, nailing five 3-pointers. He’s hit double figures in his last three games after doing it once in the Broncos’ first 16. He has made 16-of-30 3-pointers in conference play (53.3 percent), which is No. 1 in the league.
“He’s really coming along,” Rice said. “We knew he’s a tough matchup at best positions. And I’m really excited because he’s just scratching the surface.”
Duncan, a native of Australia, often was guarded by Bairstow, a leader for league MVP thus far. Duncan, who said the physical nature of Division I hoops has been his biggest adjustment, was a bit winded in his first start.
“He said he was pretty exhausted because he’s only been playing 15 minutes a game, and all the sudden he’s starting,” Bairstow said.
Part of the reason Duncan started was to combat the Lobos’ size, but also stepped in as a starter in junior Igor Hadziomerovic’s place, along with usual starters Watkins, Jeff Elorriaga, Derrick Marks and Anthony Drmic. Hadziomerovic started 26 games last season and the first 17 games this season. He only played four minutes Saturday against Utah State and did not play against New Mexico.
Rice has said the rise of Duncan, Mikey Thompson and Thomas Bropleh has kept Hadziomerovic off the floor, but his fellow Aussie said there may be another reason.
“I think Igor was out with a broken rib or something like that,” Bairstow said.