Two statistical categories accomplished on opposite ends of the court have set the Boise State men’s basketball team apart from the competition this season.
Through Tuesday’s games, the Broncos ranked seventh among all Division I teams in defensive rebounds per game (31.86) and were tied for sixth in 3-point field goals per game (12.1).
According to coach Leon Rice, that’s no coincidence.
“We make 16 3’s and everybody talks about that, but the work these guys are doing on the boards is pretty impressive,” Rice said. “It’s a big piece of what we do and an important piece for us to be able to run. We want to get a lot of stuff in transition. You can’t do it if you can’t rebound. It’s kind of the cornerstone of what we’ve built this program on.”
That cornerstone gets its first true road test of the season on Friday when the Broncos (6-1) play at Oregon (5-2), a Final Four team last season. Tipoff is 7:30 p.m. Mountain time at Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene, and the game will be televised by the Pac-12 Network. The Ducks have won 46 consecutive home games, which is the longest active streak in the nation.
Oregon came from behind to beat the Broncos 68-63 last season in Eugene, and Boise State won 74-72 at Taco Bell Arena in 2015. Oregon leads the series 6-1 and provides the kind of nonconference marquee matchup that tournament selection committees favor.
“Think about what (the Ducks) have done the last couple years. Last year they go to the Final Four. They were a rebound away from being in the championship game, maybe win it,” Rice said. “They would have played against Gonzaga for a chance at the national title. I mean, how amazing is that? The year before they were a No. 1 seed.”
The Ducks return just one player from the regular rotation last season, however, and they were picked to finish fourth in the Pac-12. Oregon’s 2017 recruiting class of Victor Bailey Jr., Troy Brown Jr., Abu Kigab and Kenny Wooten was ranked No. 12 in the nation by ESPN, and the Ducks also landed a familiar face to the Broncos in Elijah Brown, a graduate transfer from New Mexico. Troy Brown, who averages 11.7 points per game, won’t play Friday because of a concussion.
The Broncos led by 14 in the first half in last year’s game at Oregon and stayed in front deep into the second half. One senior called the loss “devastating” moments later.
“I think last year we kind of let one get out of our hands. We still feel that,” Boise State sophomore Justinian Jessup said. “We’re a little upset about that, so we’re going to come in there with a lot of fire and be ready to play.”
Rachel Roberts: 208-377-6422, @byrachelroberts