UPDATE FROM ILLINOIS
Boise State senior guard James Reid will not play in Monday night’s second-round NIT game because he is going through concussion protocol, the Idaho Statesman’s Dave Southorn is reporting from Champaign. Reid has played in all 31 games this season, starting 15, and is the Broncos’ third-leading scorer (10.0 points per game).
Boise State never won a men’s basketball postseason game on the road until Tuesday. Coach Leon Rice called it “a milestone” for the program. Now, the Broncos try to make it two in a row.
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When the sixth-seeded Broncos (20-11) face No. 2 seed Illinois (19-14) at 7 p.m. Monday in Champaign, they can’t necessarily bank on another effort like Chandler Hutchison’s 34 points at Utah if they want to tie a school record for postseason wins in a single tournament.
“We want to get all our guys clicking on one night. ... That’s what this game is probably going to require,” Rice said.
Boise State will be down one of those key guys. Sophomore forward David Wacker, who started 28 games this season, is out for the duration after dislocating his shoulder Tuesday. He averaged 4.9 points and was No. 2 on the team with 4.2 rebounds per game.
“That’s a tough one to come back from; it’s probably going to be it for David,” Rice said. “We’ve had a pretty good luxury all year of not having injuries. ... He’s been able to play through a stress reaction (in his foot). We probably aren’t where we are if he wasn’t able to do that.”
It will mean larger roles for 6-foot-11 sophomores Zach Haney and Robin Jorch to combat the Illini’s use of three 6-10 or 6-11 forwards in its regular rotation. Illinois isn’t a dominant rebounding team by any stretch, averaging 35.1 per game, 13th in the 14-team Big Ten.
Haney and the 253-pound Jorch have played well at times off the bench. Haney, in particular, was solid at Utah with five points, five rebounds and three blocks in the second half.
“If he can live in that second-half Zach (mindset), I think he can really help us,” Rice said.
Like in college football bowl games, motivation is an important factor in the NIT. Of the 17 games played so far, the lower seed has won 10. The Illini are coached by interim coach Jamall Walker after coach John Groce was fired March 11. On Saturday, Illinois announced it has hired Oklahoma State coach Brad Underwood for next season.
Still, Rice said having a new voice, an attitude of having nothing to lose, can help a team. The Illini beat Valparaiso 82-57 on Tuesday at the State Farm Center.
“The way they played against Valpo, they looked like an inspired team,” Rice said.
Perhaps the Broncos’ toughest task will be containing 6-6 senior guard Malcolm Hill, the No. 4 scorer in school history (1,804 points) and a second-team All-Big Ten pick who is averaging 17.0 ppg.
If a motivated Boise State squad catches Illinois uninterested, it could propel the Broncos to the NIT quarterfinals, but a dialed-in Illini squad will be a tough out.
“They’re a Big Ten team with some really good big guys. They can shoot, some great players on the perimeter that can score,” Rice said. “We’ve got challenges all over the place, no question.”
BSU at Illinois
- What: NIT second round
- When: 7 p.m. MT Monday
- Where: State Farm Center (15,500), Champaign, Ill.
- Records: Boise State 20-11, Illinois 19-14
- Broadcast: ESPN
- Radio: KBOI 670 AM