For all the talk about the scorers and offensive firepower on the Boise State men’s basketball team, arguably the most noteworthy thing through five games has been the defense.
The Broncos used another stellar defensive effort Sunday afternoon to surge past visiting Weber State, 70-59, at ExtraMile Arena.
Boise State had nine steals, forced 16 Weber State turnovers and held the Wildcats to 36.5 percent shooting from the field.
“Our defense is a little bit cumulative because you’re shooting over these long, athletic arms and you might make a few early but to have to do it for 40 minutes, I think that’s hard to do,” Boise State coach Leon Rice said. “Holding a team like that to 59 points when they’ve been scoring in the high 80s, I think that was good.”
Derrick Alston Jr. had 23 points on 5 of 7 from 3-point range to lead the Broncos. Abu Kigab had 15 points, RayJ Dennis has 12 and Emmanuel Akot had seven points, eight rebounds and six assists for Boise State (4-1), which has won four straight since losing the season opener at then-No. 17 Houston.
The Broncos made 11 of 26 from 3-point range and outrebounded Weber State 40-32.
Weber State leading scorer Isiah Brown came in averaging 27.5 points per game in two games but was held to 18 points on 4 of 11 shooting by a stifling Boise State defense that continues to make an impact.
The Wildcats made just 6 of 25 shots from 3-point range while struggling to shoot over Boise State’s length. Four of Boise State’s five starters and six of the eight players that played for the Broncos stood 6-foot-7 or taller.
“I think we hang our hat on that end for sure,” Alston said. “Offense is really easy for us so we have to really double down on our defense. With our length and athleticism we can pressure and bother teams for sure.”
Boise State’s five opponents are just 30 for 110 (27.2 percent) from 3-point range this season, while three of the five teams have shot less than 37 percent overall from the field.
Opponents are averaging 18.2 turnovers per game. Boise State has at least seven steals in all five games — the first time since the end of the 2016 season the Broncos have had at least seven steals in five straight games.
The Broncos held Weber State to 59 points Sunday — the third time in five games a team hasn’t reached 60 points against them.
“This is the most length and athleticism we’ve had in awhile so at that end we can really make it hard for teams,” Alston said. “Nothing is easy for teams on the offensive end.”
Just how much have the Broncos bought in defensively? Alston, Boise State’s best player and an NBA prospect, slapped the floor during a defensive possession early in the second half to fire up his team.
“You don’t have the crowd bringing energy so you have to find ways to create energy in big moments like that so I just had to get us hyped to get the stop,” Alston said.
Boise State’s defense has helped fuel its offense. The Broncos are averaging 20.8 points per game off turnovers.
“The best thing about your defense is creating those turnovers that allow us to run,” Rice said. “That’s really when we’re best, when we can get rolling. When we have that consistency to bring it every night defensively, that will help us on both ends and I think you’re seeing that with this team.”
Boise State is off this week for finals before starting Mountain West play against New Mexico on Dec. 21 at 7:30 p.m. at ExtraMile Arena.