Idaho (4-5) vs. Boise State (7-2)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, December 20, 9 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: CenturyLink Arena (5,300) -- Boise, Idaho. Television: ROOT SPORTS. Home Record: Idaho 3-2, BSU 5-0. Away Record: Idaho 1-3, BSU 2-2. Neutral Record: Idaho 0-0, BSU 0-0. Conference Record: Idaho 0-0, BSU 0-0. Series Record: Boise State leads, 51-35.
GAME NOTES: In-state rivals get together on a neutral floor on Thursday night, as the Boise State Broncos clash with the Idaho Vandals in non-conference action at CenturyLink Arena.
The Broncos, who are 5-0 at home this season and are playing this game within the city limits, bounced back from their road loss at Utah two weeks ago by posting an 89-70 win over LSU at Taco Bell Arena last Friday. The victory was the fourth in five games for a team that has just one other setback this season, a 74-70 defeat at Michigan State.
As for the Vandals, a team which began 2012-13 with four losses in five tries, they've managed to find the winning formula in recent weeks. The squad was tossed a softball in Walla Walla University last weekend and used the opportunity to pile on in a 91-47 decision. The win was the third in four games for Idaho, but still the team is a game under .500 overall.
Dating back to January of 1971, the Broncos own a 51-35 advantage in the all- time series with Idaho. Boise State, which was also a member of the Western Athletic Conference along with the Vandals previously, has won three straight and four of the last five encounters overall thanks to a 76-73 victory in the most recent battle last season on New Year's Eve.
Up against Walla Walla, a program that has now won just twice in 18 opportunities, the Vandals shot a sizzling 61.3 percent from the floor in the first half and 52.5 percent overall to bury the visitors. Kyle Barone tallied 15 points and six rebounds in just 17 minutes of action, while fellow starter Stephen Madison contributed another 14 points before being pulled after 19 minutes. Mike McChristian came off the bench to offer up another 13 points and five boards as Idaho crushed the visitors on the glass by a 52-28 margin. Even though the starters saw limited time in the most recent outing, the top scorers remain Madison and Barone with 16.3 and 14.6 ppg, respectively, the latter shooting 59.8 percent from the floor and also leading the way on the boards with more than seven and a half caroms per contest. Connor Hill (11.0 ppg) is the sharpshooter out on the perimeter with 47.3 percent accuracy, helping to pick up the slack left by Madison who has made only 9-of-35 (.257).
Boise State's defense and the team's ability to get to the free-throw line was just what the Broncos needed as they crushed visiting LSU, a team which had been undefeated before making the trip to Idaho. Anthony Drmic exploded for a game-high 34 points, shooting 6-of-10 behind the 3-point line, while Derrick Marks filled his stat line with 23 points, six rebounds, six assists and four steals. Ryan Watkins handled the action in the paint as he recorded a double- double consisting of 12 points and a game-high 17 rebounds, 10 of which came on the offensive glass. Because of Watkins, the hosts produced a sizeable 44-27 rebounding advantage. As a group, BSU also forced 20 turnovers, which the Broncos traded in for 30 points. Boise State is forcing more than 15 turnovers per game and that has helped to minimize the scoring of opponents as well, holding them to just 67.8 ppg. Marks (19.1 ppg) and Drmic (16.4 ppg) account for close to half of the unit's scoring output
The fact that even an undefeated team could not shake the Broncos in the last outing means that BSU should be able to handle the Vandals, even though this is a rivalry game.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Boise State 74, Idaho 60
12/20 10:36:21 ET