Boise State men’s basketball coach Leon Rice says his team’s two-game road trip to Wyoming and Fresno State might be the Broncos’ toughest little conference stretch since he took over the program in 2010.
Wyoming’s Arena-Auditorium in Laramie — the Broncos’ first stop — has the highest elevation among NCAA Division I teams at 7,220 feet, but it’s the environment and not the altitude that the Broncos are worried about.
“When you play in Taco Bell (Arena), you obviously have a big-time crowd that’s behind you that can push you through these ups and downs that are going on during games,” Boise State senior Chris Sengfelder said. “Once you are on the road, you have that crowd against you, so you have to figure out a way to get yourself going and get the energy going.”
The Broncos (13-2, 3-0) start the Mountain West trip at Wyoming (10-5, 1-1) on Saturday (6 p.m., AT&T SportsNet) and then play at Fresno State (11-5, 1-2) on Tuesday (9 p.m., ESPNU). They will not return to Boise between games, adding an extra wrinkle to their traditional game preparations.
Rice hopes his team’s track record this season holds true during “one of the tougher weeks that we’ve had since I’ve been here.”
And it starts with a narrowed focus.
“Our guys do a really good job of staying in the moment. They’ll be here at practice (Friday). They’re not looking ahead. They’re not worrying about tomorrow yet,” Rice said. “They’re prepping maybe better than any team I’ve ever had ... and it shows the way they are ready to play.
“To be honest with you, I didn’t think they’d come out as good as they did against New Mexico (on Wednesday), and holy cow, it looked like Mike Tyson coming out when the bell rang.”
Matching Wyoming at a high elevation will require a deep bench to fight fatigue, and Rice shared positive news regarding sophomore point guard Marcus Dickinson. He played just five minutes against New Mexico and left the arena with an unidentified illness.
“He’s cleared. It was a crazy situation, and we don’t have all the answers to what happened,” Rice said. “What concerned me so much was I know how tough Marcus is, and for him to leave the bench and leave his team, it had to be drastic, because that kid’s selling out for this team and he’d crawl across broken glass for his teammates.”
Note: New Mexico junior guard Troy Simons was issued a one-game suspension for accumulated violations of the Mountain West’s sportsmanship rule. Simons has been ejected twice this season, including Wednesday at Boise State. He will not play in the Lobos’ game Saturday against San Jose State.
BSU women host Wyoming
Boise State fell out of a tie for first place in the Mountain West standings after a loss at New Mexico, but the Broncos can maintain a share of second with a win at home Saturday against Wyoming (8-5, 1-1).
Tipoff is 2 p.m. at Taco Bell Arena.
Sophomore guard Riley Lupfer has led the charge for the Broncos (8-6, 2-1) through three conference games. She is averaging 21.0 points and has made 15 3-pointers.
On Friday, the Broncos announced the addition of 6-foot-2 freshman forward Sofia Galeron. The native of Burgos, Spain, is expected to redshirt this season.