BOISE — Disappointed and frustrated after back-to-back collapses in key games, the Boise State mens basketball team is out to purge any creeping doubt.
The Broncos held double-digit leads in the last 10 minutes their last two games, only to lose both on 3-pointers in the final seconds.
After Wednesdays 67-65 loss to No. 5 San Diego State, Boise State coach Leon Rice called the late failures a a disease that we have to cure. Prior to a lively practice Friday, he feels the Broncos are equipped to rid themselves of it soon.
It takes a lot of toughness and character to lift yourself off the mat, Rice said. We did it from UNLV to San Diego State. Now weve got that challenge again.
The Broncos (15-8, 5-5) will have a chance to put that resiliency to the test at Utah State (13-9, 3-7) on Saturday (4:05 p.m., CBS Sports Network), where Boise State has never won.
Rice and his team take some solace in that there are still a months worth of games left, and surely, some will be close.
One of my coaching buddies said these things even out over the course of a season, a career. Well, Ive got some evening out coming toward me, said Rice, who noted he has never been involved in so many close games in one season in his career.
Six of the Broncos eight losses have come while they led or were within three points in the final 30 seconds.
Trying to figure out why has no clear solution if Rice knew, he would have used it by now but after reviewing Wednesdays loss, he has some ideas.
One of the things Im taking upon myself is Ive got to trust our bench a little more, Rice said. You get your horses out there, they got the lead out there and you want to let them try to finish, but I probably overextended them. The lull in our scoring was probably due to straight exhaustion.
Boise State, minus senior Jeff Elorriaga and his bad back, used senior Thomas Bropleh for 31 minutes (15 points on 6-of-7 shooting), junior Igor Hadziomerovic for 12 minutes and freshman Dezmyn Trent for two.
The Aztecs used five bench players for a combined 71 minutes to the Broncos 45.
Four Bronco starters played 33 minutes or more, including guard Derrick Marks (33). Marks took seven of the Broncos final eight shots, making one. Just as Rice wants to do, hes looking for Marks to spread the wealth, too.
Having a good team finish a game is having the right guy shoot at the end of the game, but that doesnt mean at all costs, Rice said. Youve got to have a feel for setting your teammates up, and thats when were at our best.
Boise State led San Diego State 59-46 with 11:53 to play, but afterward went 2-of-12 from the field with no assists, five turnovers and four shots blocked. They were 24-of-39 from the field with 10 assists to four turnovers prior. Marks has a history of excellent second-half play, but teams are getting wise to it and committing multiple defenders to him late in those close games.
Part of his evolution as a complete guard is if you can read it and set some guys up, were going to be a better team, Rice said.
The Broncos also saw the Aztecs make eight of their last 12, something Thompson said was not acceptable.
Offense, defense, you name it, and Boise State needs to improve it late in games. But for them, doing that starts with something far less tangible, but hope adversity develops a trust they can be on the other side of tight games.
I could tell that it hurts everyone, and games like this, its supposed to hurt. All we can do is come back more confident, Marks said.
Dave Southorn: 377-6420, Twitter: @IDS_Southorn