Boise State men's basketball faces crunch time in Cowboy country

The Broncos are tied for fourth in the MW — with three games to play.

dsouthorn@idahostatesman.comMarch 1, 2014 

Wyoming forward Larry Nance Jr. hit the game-winning shot against Boise State on Jan. 11 at Taco Bell Arena, but a torn ACL will keep him out of Saturday’s rematch in Laramie, Wyo.

OTTO KITSINGER — Associated Press file

  • BOISE STATE AT WYOMING

    Time: 4:05 p.m.

    TV/radio: CBS Sports Network, 670 AM

    Vegas line: Boise State by 1

    Series: Wyoming leads 11-7

    Notable: Wyoming, which is 17th in the nation in scoring defense (60.5 ppg), has allowed just one opponent to eclipse 67 points in regulation. … Boise State senior Ryan Watkins is 18 points shy of becoming the 25th 1,000-point scorer in school history. He is already fourth all-time in rebounds, with 752, and is 16 shy of third place.

There is little time for the Boise State basketball team to dwell on its last game, and that’s just fine with the Broncos.

Coming off a 76-56 loss at Fresno State on Wednesday, Boise State will play its second straight road game Saturday at Wyoming, a team that beat the Broncos 52-50 on Jan. 11 in Boise. The Broncos won 63-61 in Laramie, Wyo., last season on a Jeff Elorriaga 3-pointer at the buzzer despite having four players suspended.

“We need to have the right mind-set, just like we did last year,” coach Leon Rice said. “It’s a tough place to play, so we have to focus on the challenge ahead, shake off that last game.”

Boise State (18-10, 8-7), Wyoming (17-11, 8-7) and Nevada (13-15, 8-7) are in a three-way tie for fourth in the Mountain West standings with three regular-season games left.

The Broncos are hoping to avoid a similar result to last year’s lone back-to-back conference road trip, when they lost by a combined 36 points at Nevada and Colorado State. On Wednesday at Fresno State, the Broncos trailed by 21 at the half, their largest deficit all season.

“We’ve been remarkably competitive all year long,” Rice said. “We played a decent second half, but that first half, that’s not who we are.”

Fresno State shot 56.3 percent in the first half Wednesday, while the Broncos made 1-of-11 3-pointers before halftime, and 2-of-18 for the game. Rice said there isn’t much concern with the defense, which is 269th nationally in field goal percentage defense (46.2 percent), down from 214th last season.

“If we played some good offense, it would have been another close game,” Rice said. “You can’t play with anyone if you go 2-for-18. We stopped them five times in a row in the second half, but just couldn’t score.”

Wyoming will be without Larry Nance Jr., who hit the game-winning shot Jan. 11. He tore his ACL on Feb. 18 after averaging 15.4 points and 8.6 rebounds per game this season. The Cowboys will also be without guard Leonard Hankerson (5.1 ppg), who has been suspended indefinitely since Monday.

Coming off their biggest loss of the season, the Broncos face a team that beat them on their home floor with a chance to get closer to a first-round bye in the conference tournament as one of the top five teams. Rice feels the team is not lacking for motivation.

“The guys are fired up. We know we can have a better approach than we did last game,” Rice said.

DRMIC ON THE MEND

Boise State’s leading scorer, junior Anthony Drmic, missed the last 11 minutes Wednesday after injuring his ankle.

Drmic, averaging 16.9 points a game, has been “moving pretty good,” Rice said, but said how much he will play won’t be determined until game time.

Dave Southorn: 377-6420, Twitter: @IDS_Southorn

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