LAS VEGAS — After his team completed a disappointing finish to the regular season Saturday, Boise State mens basketball coach Leon Rice said, Now its time. Its the end of the year.
Its time for his Broncos to push through nagging injuries, time for the team to put together a solid 40 minutes, and time for a rare conference tournament win.
Boise State lost three of its final four games, which sent it out of a bye and into Wednesdays first round of the Mountain West Tournament at the Thomas & Mack Center.
Its a new season, and thats how were approaching it, Rice said. I think our guys are hungry, ready to go, and maybe a little healthier than they have been.
The Broncos (19-12) had one of their most spirited practices in months Monday before they departed for Las Vegas on Tuesday for their 8 p.m. Wednesday game against San Jose State (7-23). The fired-up group is looking to bounce back and hoping for improved health.
Senior guard Jeff Elorriaga has fought through a broken bone in his back the past month, and junior guard Derrick Marks did not practice last week for the first time in his career while dealing with an infected wisdom tooth. He returned to practice Monday. Rice said a change in routine has affected Marks, who has five points or less in three of the past four games.
Hes frustrated about not being able to practice, Rice said. Hell be ready to go; these guys will be ready to go. We know what a great player he is, and I think thats what were going to see this weekend.
Leading scorer Anthony Drmic has been limited in practice for nearly two months with a stress fracture in his foot and an ankle injury he suffered two weeks ago. He practiced more Monday than he had since the injury.
Knock on wood, I hope its feeling a little better now right now hes just like, I dont care, Im playing, Rice said of the junior guard/forward.
Boise State is seeking just its second conference tournament victory since the 2008 WAC Tournament. In October, before the season even began, senior forward Ryan Watkins had his sights set on making a MW tournament run.
We havent won a game in the Mountain West Tournament yet, he said. Theres a lot of things were still hungry for.
On Monday, Watkins was named second-team All-Mountain West, and he stressed the need to get a win to begin tournament play and get some momentum in a positive direction.
I know Im going to leave it out there; I know everyone on this team is going to leave it all out there, Watkins said. We know weve got a clean slate. We need to get rolling, and well try to do that Wednesday.
In the Broncos past three games, they have trailed by at least nine points in the first half before coming back and taking the lead. They went 1-2.
Boise State lost six Mountain West games by four points or less. Rice feels the confidence hasnt wavered, and a win Wednesday could bolster it a bit. And perhaps with that, the Broncos can get one or two of those close wins they missed out on in the regular season.
Im looking for the even out part, Rice said.
Dave Southorn: 377-6420, Twitter: @IDS_Southorn