Boise State forward Mladen Armus (33) and forward Abu Kigab (24) battle with a Utah State player for control of the ball during the game against Utah State at ExtraMile Arena on Wednesday.

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BOISE — Boise State coach Leon Rice had no interest in revealing what the Broncos might change to try and slow down Utah State center Neemias Queta in Friday night’s rematch.

The 7-foot, 245-pound center had a career high 32 points and grabbed 10 rebounds against the Broncos Wednesday in one of the most dominant games by a visiting player in ExtraMile Arena history.

“You’re going to have to tune in Friday night,” Rice said slyly.

Boise State won the game 79-70 to move into first place in the Mountain West standings, but it’ll no doubt have to do a better job against maybe the best player in the league if the Broncos want a similar final score on Friday.

Asked a second time about trying to defend Queta, Rice said, “I think you’re going to have to tune in on Friday night. I’m not going to give anything away now.”

Sure Rice and the Broncos don’t want to tip off Utah State on the defensive game plan ahead of Friday’s 8 p.m. game on FOX Sports 1. But it’s also easier said than done to try and slow a future NBA Draft pick like Queta.

The big man had his way with the Broncos on Wednesday, backing down whoever tried to defend him with multiple dunks — some left-handed and some right-handed — and shots close to the basket. He also scored on jump shots, running hook shots in the lane and on ally-oops.

“I felt like it would be a good game for me to be aggressive,” Queta said. “I felt like I had an advantage in the post.”

At one point in the second half Utah State’s offense was just get the ball to Queta on every possession. And it worked more times than not. Queta made 12 of 21 shots from the field and contributed largely to Utah State’s 40 points in the paint.

“He’s one of the best centers not just on the West Coast but in the country,” Rice said. “I mean that dude is good.”

Mladen Armus, who Rice said was one of the best defensive centers he’s ever coached, did the best he could on Queta before fouling out. And reserve center Lukas Milner also gave it his best shot, but with little success.

The only chance the Broncos had at times of stopping him was to foul him — and even that didn’t work out. Queta drew eight Boise State fouls against him, and he went 8 for 9 from the free-throw line.

“Mladen is no small guy, he’s big and strong and for Queta to do that (was impressive),” Rice said. “We were deep in foul trouble. That’s the other thing. He draws so many fouls.”

But as dominant as Queta was and as weird as it sounds, maybe the Broncos won’t change much Friday. Not double-teaming Queta kept Utah State’s shooters from getting many open looks. The Aggies went just 3 for 16 from 3-point range.

While some teams double Queta and get burned by Brock Miller, Justin Bean and the other talented Utah State guards, maybe the best option is to let Queta get his two point baskets down low and limit the outside shooting.

Rice didn’t disagree, saying “there might be some real logic and some real knowledge and some real intelligence” to the theory.

“The one thing we didn’t want them to do was get a bunch of kickout 3s because they are good at that,” Rice said.

Will anything change for Friday? As Rice said, we’ll have to wait until 8 p.m. to find out.


Friday night’s game won’t be Senior Night for the Broncos because they “anticipate playing another home game,” according to a team spokesman. The Broncos have an open week on the schedule following next week’s road trip to San Diego State before the conference tournament starts in Las Vegas. They could have a home makeup game against Fresno State that week, but if the league decides not to have them play the game, the Broncos would likely look to play a nonconference home game so they aren’t going two weeks between games heading into the conference tournament. Boise State hopes to again get solid production from the bench on Friday. Milner, a seldom-used center, has come on strong of late and had six big points in 19 minutes. Max Rice also fueled the second-half run with a big 3-pointer and a driving layup and free throw while finishing with eight points. It’s unknown if guard Devonaire Doutrive will play for the Broncos Friday. He missed Wednesday’s game due to a “dental emergency” after having a tooth extracted hours prior to tip off.

B.J Rains has covered Boise State athletics for the Idaho Press since 2013. He is an Associated Press Top 25 men's basketball poll voter, and also contributes to KBOI-TV as a Boise State insider.

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