ISU MBB: Bengals continue season Saturday at in-state foe Boise State
Idaho State tested its new players Tuesday in the 2018-19 opener at Gonzaga.
The Bengals fell 120-79 to the third-ranked Bulldogs, tying for the third-most points ISU has allowed in a game in program history. It is also the Bengals’ most lopsided loss since an 87-35 defeat at Oregon in 2012.
But it wasn’t all bad for ISU. The Bengals had a positive assist-to-turnover ratio, and multiple players made their Bengals debuts.
ISU (0-1) continues its season Saturday at Boise State. Tip-off is at 7 p.m. from Taco Bell Arena.
LAST TIME OUT
ISU shot 45.7 percent from the floor, 33.3 percent from the 3-point line and capitalized on 12 offensive rebounds with 12 second-chance points.
A 3-ball by first-year Bengal Austin Smellie gave ISU its only lead of the game — 21-20 with 11 minutes, 20 seconds left in the first half.
But ISU committed 15 turnovers, and Gonzaga connected on 58.6 percent of its shots from the floor.
The Bulldogs also went 30 for 37 at the foul line, thanks to ISU’s first-half foul trouble. Kelvin Jones, Brandon Boyd, Balint Mocsan, Alonzo Walker and Sam Dowd all committed at least two fouls before halftime. Jones had three fouls in the opening frame and eventually fouled out.
All 12 ISU players that saw the floor scored, led by Brandon Boyd’s 15 points and Chier Maker’s 14. The Bengals’ 16 assists are more than they had in 24 games last season, when they averaged 11.8 assists per game. Boyd’s seven assists are tops in the Big Sky Conference.
NEWCOMERS MAKE FIRST IMPRESSIONS
Five first-year ISU players made their Bengals debuts Tuesday, including starters Jones and Maker.
Jones was frequently targeted in the post by ISU’s offense, filling a void left by departed 7-foot center Novak Topalovic. The 6-foot-11 Jones scored 11 points in 13 minutes, going 5 of 7 from the field before his opener was cut short by foul trouble.
Maker was ISU’s second-leading scorer with 14 points, and he led the team with a pair of 3-pointers. The 6-foot-7 transfer from Palm Beach State College also led ISU in rebounds with seven, including four on the offensive end, in a team-high 33 minutes.
Walker was active on the glass off the bench, pulling down six boards in 22 minutes, while scoring nine points. Walker and Maker each blocked one shot.
Smellie made his long-awaited college debut. The former Preston High standout signed with ISU in 2016, before departing on a two-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Smellie played 19 minutes, scored five points, had two assists and one steal. Smellie was the second ISU player to be brought off the bench, after Walker.
First-year Bengal Chidi Udengwu had five points and four rebounds in eight minutes.
SCOUTING BOISE STATE
Boise State plays its season opener Saturday, meeting ISU for the second time in the last three campaigns.
The Broncos were picked to finish fourth in the preseason Mountain West Conference poll. Last season, BSU went 23-9 to finish second in the league standings, but was bounced in the second round of the Mountain West tournament. The Broncos ended their season with a loss to Washington in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament.
BSU lost its star player, Chandler Hutchison, to the NBA, and second-leading scorer, Chris Sengfelder, to graduation. But the Broncos bring back two starters in Justinian Jessup and Zach Haney, as well as two consistent minute-getters in Marcus Dickinson and Alex Hobbs. Jessup is the team’s returning leading scorer after putting up 11.7 ppg a season ago, when he also led the team in 3-point shooting, with 187 triples and a 46.5 percent clip.
Boise State carries two Idaho players in Pocatello’s Malek Harwell and Boise’s Max Rice. Harwell was the 2014-15 4A All-Idaho Player of the Year at Century High School, and Rice — son of Broncos head coach Leon Rice — led Bishop Kelly High School to three district championships while earning 4A All-Idaho honors three times.
Harwell started and played a team-high 30 minutes Monday in Boise State’s home exhibition win against Vanguard. The redshirt junior scored 12 points on 5-of-9 shooting and pulled down four rebounds.
GAME INFO AND SERIES HISTORY
Video of Saturday’s game can be watched on broncosports.com, and at watchstadium.com. Live stats will also be updated at broncosports.com.
The game can be heard live on the radio at 104.1 FM.
Boise State and Idaho State have each won 54 times in the teams’ histories. BSU has won the last six matchups, including an 82-59 win at Taco Bell Arena during the 2016-17 season. ISU has not won in Boise since 2004-05.