Boise State Bronco Defense Keys 22-3 Second Half Run In 101-81 Win Over Northern Arizona Lumberjacks

Defense keys a second-half run for the Broncos.

BOISE, Idaho--For 20 minutes, Boise State and Northern Arizona played a close game, with the Broncos holding a 47-44 halftime lead.  Thanks to its defense, the Broncos went on a 22-3 run in the second half to break open the game, and Boise State went on to record a 101-61 victory tonight in Taco Bell Arena.

Anthony Drmic  and James Webb III paced five Broncos in double figures with 22 points each, and interestingly enough, Drmic scored 17 of his 22 in the first half, while Webb scored 17 in the second half.

Coach Leon Rice agreed that it was his team's defense which provided separation and allowed the Bronco offense to find its rhythm, something that it wasn't able to do in the season-opening loss to Montana.  The Bronco team has also been hampered by nagging injuries, which Rice said had cause 100 missed practices by his top ten players in an interview earlier in the week.

There were 10 ties and 10 lead changes in the opening half, with NAU's biggest lead being five points, and Boise State's largest margin four.

Drmic opened the scoring in the second half with a three-pointer to put the Broncos up 50-44.  After the teams traded threes, Chandler Hutchison's basket gave Boise State a 55-47 lead.  Northern Arizona's Jordyn Martin was whistled for his third personal foul with 16:29 left, and Ako Kaluna picked up his third foul on the next possession.  A basket by Webb III made it 57-50, as James was 8-11 from the floor at that point, including 4-5 from three-point range.

A Torry Johnson jumper cut the lead to 58-52, but after layups by Webb and Hutchison and a three-pointer from Nick Duncan, the Broncos led 65-52.  A Webb trey minutes later extended the lead to 68-55.  

Duncan nailed another three to make it 77-55, and the run reached 22-3 when Zach Haney canned another trey.

Mikey Thompson finished the game with 17 points on 5-7 shooting, while Hutchison added 12 and Duncan had 11.

Jaleni Neely led Northern Arizona with 20 points, while Torry Johnson had 14 and Yanku and Kaluna 10 each.

The Lumberjacks featured 10 true freshmen in its lineup after NAU won a school record 23 games and reached the championship game of the Postseason Tournament last year.  Yanku, a preseason All-Big Sky Conference selection, was held to 3-13 shooting by the Bronco defense.  Yanku, the nation's leading free-throw shooter one year ago who shot over 100 more free throws than Boise State's Derrick Marks last year, was held to 4-4 free throws tonight.

Rice notably inserted David Wacker into the game after speculation was that Wacker would redshirt this year.  

"I've agonized over this decision a lot," Rice said, "but I just felt like something was missing from our team."     

"What was missing was.." Rice said, "you know David's a smart player, and sometimes the best shots are the shots you don't take.  David doesn't take bad shots, and so that enables some of those other get some better looks."

Wacker was involved in a play on defense which led to a humorous moment in Rice's postgame press conference.  With Boise State leading 60-52, Wacker put his arms up in the paint to hold his ground against an NAU offensive player.  The principle of verticality in basketball means that a player is entitled to his/her space that is occupied, plus all vertical space above without a foul being called, but Wacker was called for the foul.  

During the ensuing timeout, Rice called the referee over to the Boise State huddle so he could discuss the play.  In the video above, Rice explained the conversation he had, and how he was trying to extend his hands above his head to make his case to the referee, illustrating that Wacker was playing proper defense with his hands above his head.  But because of a torn rotator cuff, Rice was unable to reach his hand high to illustrate his point, which Rice admittedly said "made for a bad visual". 

Boise State, which evened its record at 1-1, travels to play Arizona Thursday night.


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