BOISE -- While the Boise State football team was preparing for its big game in Reno, the men's basketball team pulled off what many are calling its biggest win ever. That's increasing the buzz around the hoops team and fueling talk of a return to the glory days of Bronco basketball.
Wednesday night, the Bronco men's hoops team went on the road and soundly beat the number 11 team in the nation Creighton, 83-70. It's the highest-ranked team BSU has ever beaten.
"There was like 12 of us watching the game last night," said Bronco fan Josh Pagel. "We were freaking out! We were jumping all over the place having a great time!"
Pagel and a couple dozen other Bronco fans gathered at the Boise Airport Thursday afternoon to give the team a hero's welcome as they arrived back home from Omaha, Neb.
"It felt like we did something," said Bronco guard Derrick Marks, who was all-smiles coming through the glass doors to a cheering group of blue and orange fans. "We have to keep on doing it, so hopefully you all keep on showing up."
Showing up is something Bronco fans haven't really done so far this season, only averaging 2,687 at Taco Bell Arena which seats more than 12,000. But the attendance has grown every game. Also, the Creighton win should get more fans to the games as they eye a possible return to the glory days of the late 1980s.
A great BSU hoops team is good for Bronco fans but it's great for restaurants and sports bars like Murphy's on Broadway Avenue, because it means a bigger bottom line.
"I've been at this store since 1986 and I remember the glory days when Arnell Jones and Brian King and a few others were playing down there," said Kevin Martinez, Murphy's manager. "They were filling the Pavillion up pretty good. And there were a lot of people on Broadway."
In fact, 10 of the top 11 crowds ever to see a Bronco game at the BSU Pavillion/Taco Bell Arena, were in the late 80s and early 90s. It meant a non-football season boon for restaurants in town.
Martinez says it would be great to see that again, considering now they only see a slight uptick in business on hoops game nights. "There would be a lot more people on Broadway down here Tuesdays and Saturday nights. It would be wonderful. Anybody on Broadway, anyone near the Pavillion would be pretty happy about it," he said.
But, it all starts and ends with winning, and BSU basketball coach Leon Rice says that's what he's focused on. "That's where we want to go with this program."
Most of the talk this week was about the football team's big game on Saturday, and we asked Rice if he was tired of living in that shadow. He said, to the contrary, the football team's success has helped him recruit and has given him a blueprint to success of his own. The program is clearly on its way.
Those around Bronco hoops expect a big turnout for their next home game. That will be December 14th against LSU.