Created: 12/11/2013 7:35 PM
(AP) LEXINGTON, Ky. - Playing before a big crowd wasn’t the problem for a Boise State team that has won twice in large venues.
The Broncos’ struggle Tuesday night was playing against No. 11 Kentucky’s talented roster of long and tall players, whose size and athleticism was the difference in handing them their first defeat, 70-55 before 21,565 at Rupp Arena.
After an energetic start, Boise State (8-1) was eventually overwhelmed by Kentucky, especially in the second half. The Broncos shot just 8 of 35 from the field in the final 20 minutes and finished 22 of 69 overall (32 percent).
They were outrebounded 43-27 and outscored 44-24 inside, falling behind by 19 points with 8 1/2 minutes remaining.
Then again, Boise State was facing Kentucky’s talented lineup of freshmen featuring a backcourt trio of twins Aaron and Andrew Harrison and James Young, who all measure 6-foot-6. If that wasn’t challenging enough, 6-9 forward Julius Randle and 7-foot sophomore shot blocker Willie Cauley-Stein were waiting inside.
Cauley-Stein ended up with nine blocks and altered a few more.
"Obviously, Kentucky is an unbelievable team," said Anthony Drmic, the Broncos’ leading scorer this season who finished with 18 points. "All credit to their bigs. We play small ball with four guards and they took advantage of it. They just went to the boards and dominated us."
Kentucky did pretty well offensively, shooting 53 percent from the field. Young led the way as he scored 17 of his 21 points in the first half.
Boise State was held 37 points below its per-game average of nearly 92 coming in, which ranked second in the nation.
"I knew coming in here we would have to play an A-plus game, a perfect game," Boise State coach Leon Rice said. "We have to play the right way against them, and we slid away from that a little bit. ... We have to beat them with our ball movement and player movement. We got away from that just enough that we couldn’t score."
Randle had 17 points and 11 rebounds for the Wildcats, while Aaron and Andrew Harrison each scored 13 points and combined for seven rebounds.
Derrick Marks had 14 points as the Broncos made just five 3-pointers after averaging 8.2 per game coming in.
Boise State came into its first meeting against Kentucky with some impressive credentials along with its first 8-0 start in program history. The Broncos had won both games played before 16,000 or more including a victory last year over Creighton in front of 16,364.
They also had a victory against the Southeastern Conference, beating LSU last season.
And for a while Boise State didn’t seem fazed by Kentucky’s tradition or its big arena, especially with Drmic back in the lineup after missing the previous game with an undisclosed illness.
The Broncos’ junior guard/forward seemed like his old self by challenging Kentucky inside and out in scoring 13 first-half points. He provided the energy that helped them take a 14-13 lead and stay within reach of Kentucky.
The Wildcats answered with improved intensity that helped them control the boards and the inside of the up-tempo game. Randle’s eight rebounds and Cauley-Stein’s shot blocking combined to hold the Broncos to 41 percent shooting in building a 41-31 halftime lead.
Kentucky eventually widened it to 19 points with 8 1/2 minutes remaining as Boise State missed 19 of 23 shots, some of which were altered by Cauley-Stein and Randle.
"We kind of came apart a little bit and that’s something we’ve got to fix as a team," forward Ryan Watkins said. "We can’t be sped up like that. They sped us up and we got out of our rhythm."
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)