BOISE — The Boise State men’s basketball team has played 38 home games in its history with a crowd of 10,000 or more — tonight will make it 39.
Undefeated LSU (6-0) comes into Taco Bell Arena tonight to take on a 6-2 Bronco squad that has a win at No. 11 Creighton under its belt, but is coming off a 76-55 loss at Utah. Boise State’s ticket office said Thursday evening it has sold more than 10,000 tickets.
Other than a 1999 game against then-No. 3 Cincinnati, the top 30 most-attended home games for Boise State have come against western teams, so tonight’s game will mark a big step forward for the program.
“The thing that’s exciting for me and these players is that the biggest game we’ve had here is Idaho, and that game, there’s a lot of people dressed in black,” Boise State coach Leon Rice said. “This will be 10,000 Boise State fans.”
Boise State is 26-12 when it has a crowd of 10,000 or more, and is 9-3 in its top 12 most-attended games. The Broncos have had only four games since 2007 with five-digit crowds at Taco Bell Arena. Even with 6,000, like against UNLV last season, Rice noted the amount of adrenaline running through his team.
“Our shots were almost breaking the backboard for the first six minutes — we were a little too excited,” Rice said.
After playing six newcomers last season, the Broncos have a bit of a better idea on how to handle themselves with big crowds, especially hostile ones, such as the Creighton game, or their four-point loss at Michigan State.
“I think we’ll be able to adjust — we know how to play in front of big crowds,” guard Jeff Elorriaga said. “We know it’s a 40-minute game, a marathon.”
Preceding the game has been a nine-day break for the Broncos, who played four road games in 15 days before the break. There also is the fact that their last game has left a bit of a sour taste, falling by 21 to a Utah team that they beat by 21 last year.
“We needed it a lot, to me, it seemed like we were pretty tired,” guard Derrick Marks said. “We got our legs back this week, and (tonight) we’ll be ready to play.”
Being well-rested, along with the lesson learned of not trying to over-exert themselves will be keys tonight for the Broncos against the Tigers. LSU is No. 1 in the nation in steals per game, making 13 per game, and is scoring 79.8 points per game with four players averaging double-digit points.
“They’ve got quick hands, they’ve got great athletes,” Rice said. “... Seton Hall had them down 16, and they ended up coming back and winning because of their defense. That’s a little unnerving when someone can do that to a Big East team.”
Rice has long said he wants to create a home-court advantage, much like Boise State’s football does on its turf, and his team believes that it can do that with a strong performance tonight.
“We know we have to come out and give our best effort, keep the fans in it,” Marks said.