It’s times like these when Boise State basketball coach Leon Rice is thankful he has two seniors on his young roster.
Fresh off a 78-73 loss at New Mexico on Tuesday, the Broncos (16-8, 9-4) find themselves a half-game out of first place in the Mountain West standings. Their matchup in Albuquerque, N.M., was a roller coaster: down 17 points in the second half, rally to within three with 19 seconds left.
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Boise State also rallied from huge deficits in back-to-back games at Fresno State (27 points to eight) and in its first game against New Mexico (20 to two).
Those January games are the only time since Nov. 18 that Boise State has lost consecutive games this season. A big reason for that is the senior leadership of James Reid and Nick Duncan.
“They’re huge,” Rice said. “It means so much to me to have our seniors go out the right way, playing their best basketball, leaving a legacy of how hard they play, the things that they accomplish. And that’s where we are right now.”
With as many as three true freshmen on the court at any given time, Boise State has endured rough patches. When those occur, Reid and Duncan pick up the pieces.
“It’s (about) getting better and focusing on ourselves and moving onto the next thing,” Duncan said.
The key to Boise State’s resiliency has been the ability to maintain a sense of urgency at all times. After losses, that urgency level rises by design.
“As leaders, you can show by example the sense of urgency that has to be in place after a loss. As the seniors and the leaders, you have to pass this on to the young guys who have only played high school and AAU basketball,” Reid said. “This is the real deal, and that losses aren’t alright.”
Reid said much of that urgency comes through in the way the team practices after defeats. There is a sharper edge in the days following losses.
“We understand the importance of practice,” Reid said. “But there’s a natural slippage when you win four, six in a row and then you take one or two on the nose. Now, we really have to turn it around and have great ones today.”
The other benefit of senior leadership is in helping younger players regain composure.
“They’re five months into college basketball with plenty of good game experience,” Reid said. “(But) there’s times in practices and in between games and at games where you have to maybe give a guy a line or two to help him calm down, or pick him up or tell him, ‘Good job.’ ”
Reid and Duncan will be on senior leadership duty again Saturday, when Wyoming (16-11, 6-8, two-game losing streak) comes to Taco Bell Arena (4 p.m., ROOT Sports).
As always, they are making sure the message is heard clearly.
“We still hold our own destiny,” Duncan said. “We just have to make sure that the young guys are always trying to get better and improving from the last game.”
“It’s major,” Reid said. “It’s a one-game season, every game for the next five. That’s where we want to be. That’s where we are.”
Junior Chandler Hutchison leads the Broncos in points (424), rebounds (203) and steals (30) this season. He also ranks second in assists (56, four behind Paris Austin).
Only three times has one player led the Broncos in points, rebounds and steals for a season. It has never been done with points, rebounds and assists.
Hutchison is the sixth player in program history to rack up at least 400 points, 200 rebounds and 50 assists in a season.
Boise State (16-8, 9-4 MW) vs. Wyoming (16-11, 6-8)
- When: 4 p.m. Saturday
- Where: Taco Bell Arena (12,480), Boise
- TV: Root Sports (Cable One 149/1149, DirecTV 687, Dish 426)
- Radio: KBOI 670 AM (Bob Behler and Abe Jackson), broncosports.com.
- Tickets: $10 (adults), $9 (seniors) and $8 (juniors) at the Taco Bell Arena box office and broncosports.com/tickets. Students can bring a free guest through their student ticket account.
- Vegas line: Boise State favored by 8
- Boise State women: Broncos (17-7, 7-6) at Wyoming (18-7, 10-4), 2 p.m. Saturday (KTIK 1350 AM)