It figures to be a game-time decision on a nightly basis down the stretch as to whether or not senior guard Jeff Elorriaga will be able to contribute to the Boise State men’s basketball team.
They’ll gladly take what they got Tuesday night at Colorado State.
Playing with a broken bone in his back, Elorriaga came off the bench to score nine points in 20 minutes and keyed a first-half run that propelled the Broncos to a 84-72 road win in Fort Collins, Colo.
“He was in my ear all day saying, ‘I’m ready, I’m ready, I’m playing, I’m playing,’” Boise State coach Leon Rice said. “I don’t want to over use him, but he won’t let me not use him.”
Elorriaga had played just two minutes since injuring his back on Feb. 1 at UNLV, but he felt good enough prior to Tuesday’s game that he was able to see his first significant action in five games.
The senior entered with nine minutes remaining in the first half and the Broncos trailing 25-19. He hit a 3-pointer, took a charge and hit another 3-pointer on three consecutive possessions in less than a minute to tie the game.
Boise State (17-9, 7-6 Mountain West) went on a 21-6 run from there, opening up a lead that they never relinquished to win their second straight game and move into sole possession of fifth place in the Mountain West standings with five games remaining.
“He means so much to the team,” Rice said of Elorriaga. “His calming effect in the huddle — he’s the quarterback really. He doesn’t play point guard, but he’s the quarterback. And when you lose your quarterback it definitely affects your team. Just to have him out there is so valuable.
“It was a great team win. To have 21 assists on 29 field goals is pretty impressive. I thought our guys just played a terrific game offensively and defensively.”
Junior Anthony Drmic had 19 points and five assists to lead Boise State, which hit 13 3-pointers and went a perfect 13-for-13 from the free-throw line.
Senior Thomas Bropleh came off the bench to score 18 points — all in the second half — to equal his season high. He’s scored in double figures in five of the past six games after doing it only twice in the first 20 games of the season.
Ryan Watkins finished with nine points and 12 rebounds, and Derrick Marks had 13 points.
Elorriaga has been cleared to play depending on the amount of pain he can handle and how much his back tightens up prior or during the game. His status will likely be day-to-day the rest of the season.
But despite having a broken bone in his back, he hit 3-of-4 attempts from the 3-point line Tuesday and took two charges to help Boise State continue what they hope is a late-season charge.
Boise State set a season-high with 21 assists. The 84 points were the most they’ve scored in a road conference game since Jan. 27, 2011, when they lost 96-87 at New Mexico State in their final season in the WAC.
The Broncos return to Taco Bell Arena on Saturday to host UNLV at 6 p.m. They likely need to win the final five regular season games and at least one game in the conference tournament to have any chance at an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.
“Our guys are feeling fresh and we’re running for the barn right now,” Rice said. “And we’re running hard. … We feel like we can continue to get better.”