Lexington, KY (SportsNetwork.com) - The Boise State Broncos will put the best start in school history to the test on Tuesday night, as they travel to legendary Rupp Arena to take on the 11th-ranked Kentucky Wildcats.
For the first time ever, Boise State sits with an 8-0 record, and although most of its victories have come against inferior competition, it does have an impressive triumph over Utah (69-67) under its belt. The Broncos recently closed out a three-game homestand with an easy 80-52 win over Carroll College on Dec. 5.
Although Kentucky has been relatively strong this season at 7-2, it has been a disappointing start for a team that came into the campaign with the No. 1 ranking. After losing to Michigan State on Nov. 12 (78-74), the Wildcats ripped off five straight victories before venturing to Arlington, Texas on Dec. 6, where they fell in a neutral-court battle with Baylor, 67-62.
This matchup marks the first-ever meeting between the Broncos and the Wildcats in men's basketball.
The Broncos did what was expected of them the last time out against Carroll College. Even though they shot a modest 44.3 percent from the field, they still cruised to the 28-point victory by boasting big advantages both on the glass (41-20) and in the turnover battle (17-10). Thomas Bropleh and Jeff Elorriaga each scored 18 points, with the latter doing his damage on 6-of-10 shooting from 3-point range. Ryan Watkins posted a double-double of 12 points and 14 rebounds, while Derrick Marks rounded out the balanced effort with 11 points. It was actually a light scoring night for Boise State, which is the nation's highest-scoring team at 91.9 points per game, doing so on outstanding percentages from the field (.509), beyond the arc (.413), and the free-throw line (.758). Anthony Drmic (20.4 ppg) is the team's leading scorer and is also an elite perimeter defender with 2.7 steals per game. Marks (18.6 ppg) is a great second option, Elorriaga (12.5 ppg) has drained nearly 65 percent of his 3-point tries, and Mikey Thompson (10.6 ppg) and Watkins (9.9 ppg, 9.9 rpg) have also been strong in the early going.
The Wildcats appeared in control of their latest game, leading Baylor by nine points midway through the second quarter, but the Bears quickly went on an 8-0 run to get back into the game and eventually captured the five-point win. It was a poor night from the field by Kentucky's lofty standards (.420), and it was also hindered by an awful 12-of-23 showing at the foul line. Julius Randle led the way with 16 points and eight rebounds, Aaron Harrison tallied 15 points and six assists, while James Young netted 14 points on 4-of-7 accuracy from long distance. On the season, UK outshoots its opponents from the field, 47.7 percent to 36.8 percent, for an outstanding +17.7 scoring margin, and it also outrebounds those foes by 12 boards per contest. Randle has lived up to the billing as one of the top freshmen in the country by registering 17.9 points and 12.1 rebounds per game, while fellow first-year players Aaron Harrison (13.9 ppg), Young (13.1 ppg) and Andrew Harrison (10.0 ppg) are also regular contributors. Willie Cauley-Stein, just a sophomore but a trusty veteran on this squad, mans the paint alongside Randle with 9.4 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.8 blocks per game.