BOISE — With its basketball program scheduled to move into its third different conference in four years next season, Boise State has found itself short on natural rivals.
That’s why the Broncos relish the one chance they get each year against in-state foe Idaho, and Boise State used a near-perfect second half to rally for a 78-68 win Thursday night on a neutral floor at CenturyLink Arena.
Derrick Marks scored 25 points and Ryan Watkins chipped in 17 for Boise State (8-2), which won its fourth in a row against its oldest rival.
“This game is always fun,” Watkins said. “There’s so much emotion. We don’t have any other rival games on our schedule.”
Boise State played in the WAC in 2010-11 and is in its second and final season in the Mountain West. The Broncos, who are scheduled to compete in the Big West next year, mounted their comeback on the strength of the 3-point shot. The Broncos went 5 of 8 from beyond the arc in the second half after going 0 of 7 in the first.
Marks hit two 3-pointers in the first 2 ½ minutes of the second half, and Jeff Elorriaga hit two others that woke up what had been a dormant offense.
“Those first two I made were huge,” Marks said. “Those were loud baskets. The whole team came together after that.”
Idaho (4-6) controlled the first half, leading by double digits on six different occasions before settling for a 37-29 lead. The Vandals made 13 of 20 shots from the field in the opening half.
“They had us on our heels in the first half,” Boise State coach Leon Rice said. “We gave them a lot of easy baskets.”
Boise State took its first lead of the second half with 10:23 to play on a basket by Igor Hadziomerovic, who had 10 points. Boise State never let Idaho regain the lead. But Idaho did tie the score at 60 with 6:46 left on a 3-pointer by Mike McChristian, who finished with 14 points.
Marks made 13 of 14 free throws in the second half to help put away the Vandals.
“We didn’t get the stops we needed,” Idaho coach Don Verlin said. “They were able to drive the ball to the basket, and we would either foul (Marks) or he’d make the shot.”
Marks credited the turnaround to his team being more aggressive and playing physical after halftime.
“In the first half, we came out slow and they came out aggressive,” Marks said. “In the second half, we just regrouped and got back together. We just kept getting stop after stop in the second half.”
Boise State outscored Idaho 49-31 in the second half. The Vandals were hurt by 16 turnovers, which offset their 51 percent shooting for the game.
Freshman Mikey Thompson added 11 points.
Kyle Barone led Idaho with 24 points on 9 of 11 shooting and had 10 rebounds. Stephen Madison chipped in 12 for the Vandals.
Boise State has a 52-35 lead over Idaho in the series that dates back to 1971.