Boise State Basketball

Boise State’s Rice isn’t horsing around: ‘I’ll do anything for these guys’

Leon Rice: 'I've been to a dude ranch before'

Boise State men's basketball coach Leon Rice rode a horse through campus Friday as promised after fans sold out Taco Bell Arena for Saturday's game against UNLV.
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Boise State men's basketball coach Leon Rice rode a horse through campus Friday as promised after fans sold out Taco Bell Arena for Saturday's game against UNLV.

Country music played through a portable speaker as Leon Rice and a white horse named Max followed behind a golf cart on their parade through Boise State’s campus Friday morning.

The Boise State men’s basketball coach — decked out in a black cowboy hat and borrowed chaps — gave onlookers the thumbs-up and asked anyone within shouting distance whether they’d bought tickets for Saturday’s game against UNLV (6 p.m., CBS Sports Network).

For the second time this season, the Broncos’ good-natured coach orchestrated a sellout of Taco Bell Arena with the promise of silly antics.

“I’ll do anything for these guys to help them get the fans they deserve. I want people to come out and see this team,” Rice said. “You’re in for a heck of a game tomorrow. Hopefully it’s a nice day. People can come out and tailgate before the game, just like football. It’ll be a great atmosphere.”

Last month, Rice waded across the Boise River after getting a sellout for the Broncos’ home game against San Diego State.

“There’s only four more home games, so if it takes me putting on this (motioning to his cowboy gear) to get people out and have some fun with it, then great,” Rice said.

Boise State men's basketball coach Leon Rice waded through the Boise River, true to his word, after fans sold out Taco Bell Arena for the Jan. 13, 2018, game against San Diego State. (Video courtesy of Boise State)

Boise State’s remaining home games after UNLV are Feb. 14 (first-place Nevada), Feb. 17 (Air Force) and March 3 (Wyoming).

Rice suggested Friday that he already has plans to drum up another big crowd for the Nevada game – but it won’t involve climbing.

“We’ve got some good ideas,” Rice said. “... But I don’t do well with heights.”

UNLV Round Two

Fresh off its first bye of the season, Boise State begins the second half of its Mountain West schedule. The Broncos (18-4, 8-2) won 83-74 at UNLV (16-6, 5-4) on Dec. 30 as senior Chandler Hutchison scored eight of his 32 points in the final 3 minutes.

The Rebels have perhaps two of the toughest big men in the league in 7-foot true freshman Brandon McCoy and 6-7 junior Shakur Juiston.

McCoy and Juiston rank in the top 21 in the country in rebounding. McCoy is 18th (10.1 rpg) and Juiston is 21st (9.8). Although the Rebels sit in fifth in the conference standings, they rank sixth in the country in field-goal percentage (50.0), 10th in scoring (85.8 ppg), 13th in rebounding (40.27 rpg) and 27th in assists per game (17.0).

“Juiston was a monster and McCoy, his percentages are phenomenal,” Rice said. “To shoot the percentage those guys are doing, not just in a game but over the course of a season, you don’t see that very many times in college basketball.”

The Broncos are 12-0 at Taco Bell Arena this season, one game shy of the longest home winning streak in a single season in program history. The 1997-98 team finished 13-0 at home.

Rice receives extension

Thanks to Boise State’s 70-64 win at Air Force on Jan. 27, Rice received a one-year contract extension through 2022-23 for reaching the 18-win mark.

He’s making $675,000 this year and receives $25,000 annual raises.

BSU women eye second

A win at UNLV on Saturday (4 p.m., 1350 AM) would secure the Broncos the season sweep and tiebreaker over the Rebels, moving Boise State into at least second place in the Mountain West standings.

First-place Wyoming lost to Colorado State on Wednesday, meaning the BSU women (13-8, 7-3) are now just a game back of the Cowgirls (14-6, 7-2) and UNLV (12-8, 7-2) ahead of Saturday’s game.

Boise State sophomore guard Riley Lupfer could set the program’s single-season record for 3-pointers against UNLV. Lupfer has 78 on the season and needs just four to eclipse Abby Vaughan’s record of 81, set in 2002-03.

Rachel Roberts: 208-377-6422, @byrachelroberts