James Webb III has been just as, if not more, effective this season, one year after his breakout campaign because he keeps finding new ways to score.
Webb, who was named Mountain West basketball player of the week Monday, his second such honor in the past three weeks, leads the Broncos with 16.3 points per game. With his 3-point shooting down from his sophomore season, Webb has been more aggressive getting to the basket and, as a result, the free throw line.
“It’s a big factor,” Webb said. “We’ve got to get touches in the paint and my team finds me in the paint. If I see a gap, I try and attack it. I know I jump pretty well, so they were going to have to start fouling me at some point. That was my main focus.”
Webb scored 82 points in his past three games, the first time in his career he has had three consecutive 20-point games. Perhaps not coincidentally, he attempted 33 free throws in those games, with nine or more in each. He never attempted more than eight in any of his previous 43 games.
“Derrick (Marks) was that guy last year,” Webb said. “I may not be able to post up all the time, but I can get into the lane and get some rebounds, things like that.”
Though Webb is shooting 29.5 percent on his 3-pointers, down from 40.9 in 2014-15, he has attempted 74 free throws after attempting 58 last season. Coach Leon Rice credits him with being a big part of the Broncos’ seven-game winning streak, which they put on the line at 8 p.m. Tuesday at Utah State, their first game away from home since Dec. 5.
“That’s why we’ve won these games that we’ve won, because we’ve been able to get to the free throw line,” Rice said. “Most kids playing basketball want to fall in love with the 3-ball. They don’t want to attack the rim, but James is balancing things out for us.”
Next up for Webb is converting those free throws into even more points. He has made 48-of-74 (64.9 percent), close to the 65.5 percent he made last season. He said Monday his shooting from the line has been “OK,” laughing that a nasty cut on his thumb during Saturday’s win over Colorado State didn’t help. In his past four games, he’s 29-of-37 (78.4 percent).
Rice is confident he’ll continue to get to the line, and make more.
“He’ll shoot better. He’ll have great games for us,” Rice said. “Right now he’s making just enough, and we’ll need him to make more than enough.”
At 6-foot-9, but still a thin 202 pounds, Webb is eager to show he can be a consistent physical presence in the Mountain West, where he said “everybody’s a little bigger and a lot stronger, for some reason.
“They think my size is my weakness, so they try to attack that, but at the end of the day, that’s just going to make me go harder.’’
NOTES: Boise State is seeking its second straight win in Logan after winning for the first time in history (19 games) last season. ... Rice said junior forward Nick Duncan has put in extra work to break out of his 8-for-39 slump from 3-point range the past seven games. He had a similar skid last December but finished the season shooting 38.4 percent from deep.
BSU (10-4, 1-0) at Utah State (9-4, 1-1)
- When: 8 p.m. Tuesday
- Where: Dee Glen Smith Spectrum (10,270), Logan, Utah
- TV: CBS Sports Network (DirecTV channel 221, Dish 158, Cable One 139/1139)
- Radio: 670 KBOI AM