By Brian Murphy
LARAMIE, Wyo. — Boise State topped previously undefeated Wyoming 63-61 on Jeff Elorriaga's 3-pointer as time expired Wednesday night in Laramie. Wyoming entered the game 13-0 and ranked No. 25 in the USA Today Coaches' poll. It was the Mountain West opener for both teams.
Watch the final play here and then read what the Broncos were trying to do in their own words. Notice the screen by Ryan Watkins (No. 0) for the Broncos to get Elorriaga open.
"We were thinking they would probably switch out on Jeff and not let him get a look, just out of human nature," Boise State coach Leon Rice said. "So we thought we were going to get Ryan (Watkins) slipping to the basket — and they didn’t (switch). Iggy (Hadziomerovic) did a great job of keeping control. He knew his two options and he found the right one."
Said Elorriaga: "(Anthony) Drmic is usually the go-to guy, but he fouled out. They told me to go to another spot, but I told Thomas (Bropleh) to move over, I’ve got it. Iggy threw quite a great pass and it went in.
"You try to draw them on one side of the court. You could tell we skipped it from one side of the court to the other. And it drew everybody to the middle. ... It’s tough. They were only up one so they know they've got to stop everything. Iggy did a great job drawing attention. It was a great screen by Ryan Watkins, I can’t forget that. He cracked the guy."
Said Rice: "Jeff’s one of the toughest kids I’ve ever been around. When he let it go, you kind of knew it was in."
Said Elorriaga: "It felt a little left and started rolling around and went down. And I saw the buzzer go off. and I couldn’t hold my excitement down. I’m glad it went through the hoop."
Said Rice: "He willed it in."
Said Wyoming coach Larry Shyatt: "He's a great shooter. I wish we had him. He leads this league (in 3-point shooting) and there is a reason for it. He had to make one at the end and he had to make it quick."
Elorriaga made six of 10 3-point attempts against Wyoming. He has made 52 of his 105 3-point attempts this season (49.5 percent).
Big night for Ness
Boise State sophomore center Jake Ness, a walk-on from Billings, Mont., played a career-high 17 minutes against Wyoming. The Broncos were without reserve big men Kenny Buckner and Darrious Hamilton (suspension) so they had only Ness behind Watkins.
Ness had two rebounds and one turnover. He did not attempt a shot. But his minutes were critical, especially when Watkins picked up two first-half fouls and two more fouls in the first four minutes of the second half.
"Jake Ness did a terrific job. He’s never been in that situation before. He battles our guys every day in practice, but he’s never been in that," Rice said. "We spent hours and hours just trying to design things we could do when he was in the game so he could do it because he spends all his time on the scout team. Credit to him. That’s tough duty."
Ness had played 23 minutes all season — and 19 of them came in recent games against NAIA schools Corban (nine minutes) and Walla Walla (10).
In addition to Buckner and Hamilton, Boise State played without suspended guards Derrick Marks, the team's leading scorer, and Mikey Thompson, its sixth man.
Rice informed the team of the suspensions Tuesday before practice. None of the four practiced Tuesday or traveled to Wyoming.
Rice said he is still evaluating the status of the four players, but they remain on the team.
"We were in scramble mode to make our game plan," Rice said.
With the Broncos (13-2) off to their best start since 1987-88, Rice said it was beyond disappointing to suspend four players before the Mountain West opener.
"For me, heartbreaking. It was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make. We have a young team and we’re building a program, so one game is not as important as the future of our program. We don’t compromise on not doing it right," Rice said.