Boise St.-New Mexico Preview
MAR 14, 2014 2:59a ET
Boise State is halfway through an amazing run in the Mountain West Conference tournament and defeated New Mexico the last time these teams met heading into Friday night's semifinal matchup.
The Lobos (25-6), seeking their third straight tournament title, are shooting 33.9 percent on 3-pointers and are at 30.8 over their last six games.
New Mexico's best efforts from beyond the arc came against Boise State. The Lobos shot 52.9 percent (9 of 17) in an 84-75 home win Jan. 21 before faring better at 54.5 (6 of 11) in a 71-70 loss Feb. 12.
"With Boise, we lost up there by a possession," Lobos coach Craig Neal said. "You got to give them credit. I think they're playing a lot better."
Boise State (21-12) won for the first time in six matchups with New Mexico last month, finishing with a 35-23 edge on the glass including a 12-2 margin in offensive rebounds. The Broncos held a 41-28 rebounding advantage - 19-7 on the offensive end - in the first meeting.
Coach Leon Rice expects a difficult game Friday.
"Against New Mexico, we've got to play great," Rice said. "They're a terrific basketball game and they've got a lot of guys who know how to win games."
The Broncos have been up and down and hampered by injuries since an 8-0 start. They reached the NCAA tournament last season as an at-large team, but likely need to win this event to qualify this year.
"Boise by far had the most returning players back," Neal said. "They had all five starters back and two guys off their bench. They had eight guys back from their team."
"I think that's the key," said swingman Anthony Drmic, who is playing with a stress fracture. "I think we're starting to peak at the right time here defensively."
Broncos forward Ryan Watkins is tied for the conference lead with 17 double-doubles, and he's totaled 27 points and 33 rebounds in the season series.
Lobos 7-footer Alex Kirk is fourth with 14 double-doubles and averages 8.6 rebounds while forward Cameron Bairstow averages 7.3 boards. Kirk has only totaled 11 boards this season versus Boise State and Bairstow has eight.
"They're not just great, strong big guys, these two guys," Rice said. "These guys are great basketball players."
Bairstow had 21 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks and Kirk also scored 21 in Thursday's 93-77 win over Fresno State.
Broncos guard Derrick Marks is averaging a team-high 16.5 points in this tournament and 16.8 in six career games against the Lobos despite fouling out twice and finishing with four fouls twice.