NAMPA, Idaho — Anthony Drmic could barely stand on his feet two days before Saturday’s game, but he had no issues with his shooting touch during Boise State’s 76-73 victory over rival Idaho.
Drmic scored a career-high 26 points and made six of Boise State’s 10 3-point baskets as the Broncos (10-4) won for just the second time in five games.
“I’m telling you two days ago he couldn’t walk,” Boise State coach Leon Rice said of Drmic, who returned from a one-game absence due to an ankle injury suffered Dec. 19. “I was counting on his toughness. That kid is one of the toughest kids I’ve ever coached.”
Deremy Geiger scored 17 points and Stephen Madison added 16 for Idaho (7-7), which lost its third consecutive contest.
The Vandals almost spoiled Drmic’s strong performance, rallying from a 12-point second-half deficit to pull within 74-73 on Landon Tatum’s two free throws with 3.9 seconds remaining. But Boise State’s Drew Wiley made two free throws with three seconds left and Idaho’s Kyle Barone missed a 3-point attempt from the left corner at the buzzer.
“I thought it was good when it left my hand,” Barone said. “It was just a little long.”
Drmic’s scoring output was the highest by a Boise State freshman since Steve Shepherd also scored 26 against Montana State during the 1993-94 campaign.
Drmic was 9-of-14 shooting and his final 3-pointer started a 16-2 surge that turned a two-point deficit into a 57-45 advantage with 13 minutes left. He played 31 minutes despite showing some grimaces when landing.
“It was hurting but I just came out and played as hard as I could and played my role,” Drmic said. “When you hit four of your first five shots, it’s huge. You just get a lot of confidence and feel like you can hit any shots.”
The Broncos committed just seven turnovers as point guard Westly Perryman delivered nine assists. Idaho stayed in the game by shooting 50 percent from the field and owning a 38-23 rebounding advantage.
But the Vandals committed 18 turnovers to sabotage their chances.
“Turnovers were the bugaboo,” Idaho coach Don Verlin said. “I don’t know if it was the game or the atmosphere and guys were playing too hard. You can’t make those unforced errors.”
The contest was played at the Idaho Center in Nampa, located 22 miles west of the Boise State campus. The two programs are in separate conferences this season (Idaho in the Western Athletic and Boise State in the Mountain West) and playing on the neutral court was a way to keep the series going.
A similar scenario will be considered for next season. Beginning with the 2013-14 seasons, the two schools will once again both be members of the WAC.
“It’s a game that should be played every year whether we’re in the same league or not,” Verlin said. “It’s a rivalry game. If they want to play game or not next year, that’s up for them. If they want to play, they name the date and we will be here.”