Stevens: Lobos Must Cool Down Broncos' Shooters in MW Trip To Boise

Jan. 15, 2013

New Mexico Lobos Men's Basketball - on The Mountain West Road

Wednesday: 7 p.m. (MT) - No. 19/21 New Mexico Lobos (15-2, 2-0 MW) at Boise State (13-2, 1-0) - Taco Bell Arena
On The Air: 770-AM KKOB - Lobo Radio Network; ROOT Sports (TV) GameTracker, Game Story, Complete Stats

By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/

There are numbers concerning the Boise State Broncos that catch your eye and your attention.

Here are two such numbers: four and two.

Four is the number of Broncos suspended for Boise State's two-point win at then-undefeated Wyoming. It's tough to win in Laramie - tougher when one of those four suspensions was your No. 1 scorer.

That Bronco gun, Derrick Marks (16.3 ppg), is back for the Lobos visit and Lobo Kendall Williams, suspended for the Fresno State win, is back on the court.

Here are a few other impressive Boise State numbers:

  • 13-2: The Broncos overall record which includes a 1-0 Mountain West mark.

  • 78.1: Boise's scoring average which is No. 1 in the MW.

  • 16.5: The Broncos' scoring margin, also No. 1 in the MW.

  • .745: The Broncos' free-throw percentage, No. 1 in the MW.

  • .485: Boise's field goal percentage - yes, No. 1 in the Mountain.

    OK, you get it by now. The Broncos hit their shots. They also top the Mountain in 3-point efficiency at .423 percent and top the league in defensive boards giving up 28.4 rebounds per game.

    Of course, the Broncos make it hard on teams to get many boards since the Broncos don't miss many shots!

    "The more I watch them on tape the more concerns I have with them," said Lobo Coach Steve Alford. "They play extremely hard at both ends of the floor.

    "They shoot the ball as well as anybody in our league. They have a lot of weapons, who can shoot it."

    The Broncos are simply solid. They also are in the top four of the MW stats in assists, steals, 3-point defense, rebound margin, assist/turnover and turnover margin.

    Where the Broncos show some vulnerability is in stats that reflect size. That's UNM's big advantage in Boise. The Lobos have their Twin Towers: 7-foot Alex Kirk and 6-9 Cameron Bairstow. The Lobos were able to lean on that double threat heavily against Freson State, because the Bulldogs did not like to run. Boise State will run.

    "They are a mismatch for us," said Boise Coach Leon Rice. "We are going to have to try a lot of different things to be able to deal with them. We aren't a very big team and those two (Lobo) bigs are terrific and they just keep getting better and better almost every game out.

    "We have to play on a high level emotionally because we're not going to roll out and be physically better than anybody in this league. If we don't play at ta high emotional mark, then we are probably in big trouble."

    It's never a bad idea to do all the little things right, but that concept might be emphasized by a Bronco team that has to replace size with honest effort.

    The Broncos aren't big, but they are the No. 2 team in the league in percentage of defensive boards that they bring down -- .758 percent. That means it's not easy to get second shots off Boise.

    The Broncos work hard, hustle, play smart and they can shoot it. Remember, the Broncos average .485 percent from the field. But can they do that against a UNM team that leans on defense as a team staple?

    "They are very explosive and they have a lot of balance in what they do," said Alford. "They really challenge you from a defensive standpoint because they have a lot of different lineups. They have a lot of four-guard looks and guys who can beat you off the dribble or shoot the three."

    Boise State tops the league in 3-pointers made per game (8.8) and in treys shot with 132 launches. UNM has shot 102 3-pointers.

    The Broncos are paced by Marks at 16.3 points per game followed by Anthony Drmic at 15.6 and Jeff Elorriaga at 11.9. Elorriaga has made 52 treys (.495 percent) followed by Marks with 38 (.422 percent). Those are the long gunners.

    Drmic, a 6-foot-6 forward, does his damage inside with a .497 shooting percentage. He also has shot 77 free throws on the year. UNM's Williams has shot 81. Ryan Watkins, a 6-9 post, tops the Boise rebounding charts with a 7.1 average and scored 8.9 points per outing.

    The fact that Boise State won at Laramie without Marks reflects on how important all that little stuff can be for a team. Marks was Boise's leading scorer, top assist man (4.0 apg), top free-throw shooter (.875 percent), best shooting guard (47 percent) and also led the team in steals (2.3 per game).

    The game obviously is important to both squads in their drive for a Mountain title. Boise State has a huge road win, but needs to protect the home court. UNM is 2-0 with two Pit wins, but needs a road breakthrough.

    "We got off to a good start and that's something that's crucial in this league," said Alford. "Holding serve at home is something that's going to be premium."

    The Lobos might have the advantage inside, but it's difficult to call Boise a "weak" team inside. The Broncos work too hard. But Kirk and Bairstow are a load. They can power in points inside and they both can hit jumpers. Boise State is strong on the perimeter, but the Lobos also have a lot of talent on the edge.

    "You play your game whether you are big-big up front or you play four guards," said Alford. "And you see which of those styles is going to win. When you get in a contest of contrasting styles, it's fun to see which style wins.

    "We've told our guys, `It's a big road trip'. It's going to be a great contest."