Boise State Basketball

Boise State locked in on playing ‘explosive’ Utah State in tournament opener

Leon Rice: 'We have something to prove'

The Boise State men's basketball team opens the Mountain West Tournament against Utah State at 7 p.m. MT on Thursday at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas. The Aggies beat the Broncos 71-65 on Feb. 10.
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The Boise State men's basketball team opens the Mountain West Tournament against Utah State at 7 p.m. MT on Thursday at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas. The Aggies beat the Broncos 71-65 on Feb. 10.

If things go according to plan, the Boise State men’s basketball team will play three games at the Mountain West Tournament this week.

But playing three games in three days is the furthest thing from the Broncos’ minds.

“It’s our job to play the best basketball we’ve played all year. If we can do that, we’re going to be right there,” Boise State coach Leon Rice said. “You’ve got one game, really. You talk about the whole tournament, but it’s not a tournament. It’s one game, and our guys are dialed into that.”

Boise State (23-7) will open tournament play against Utah State (16-16) at 7 p.m. Thursday (CBS Sports Network) at the Thomas & Mack Center. The Aggies beat Colorado State 76-65 on Wednesday behind sophomore guard Kobe McEwen’s game-best 25 points.

After their win against the Rams, the Aggies felt confident about meeting the Broncos for a third time this season.

“What really helps us out is we know we can play with them,” McEwen said. “We have the utmost confidence in ourselves that we can be on the same court as Boise, no matter what the standings are. Our guys know that and believe that.”

During the regular season, the Broncos beat the Aggies 71-67 at Taco Bell Arena on Jan. 17 but lost 71-65 in Logan, Utah, on Feb. 10.

“Utah State, first of all, they’ve got terrific guards, and their whole team’s full of lots of guards,” Rice said. “They all shoot it really well. When a team like that gets hot and gets going, they’re hard to stop.”

Since Boise State joined the Mountain West Conference in 2011, the Broncos never have advanced beyond the tournament semifinals.

But fortune could be in the Broncos’ corner in Vegas. The No. 2 seed has won the conference tournament eight times – the most of any seed since the tournament’s first season in 2000 – and this is the first time the Broncos have earned the No. 2 seed.

Boise State entered the tournament 7-2 against the teams on its side of the bracket (Utah State, Colorado State, Wyoming, San Jose State and New Mexico) and was 6-3 against squads on the other side (No. 1 seed Nevada, UNLV, Air Force, Fresno State and San Diego State).

“It’s a hard tournament to win,” Rice said. “One team wins it, and there’s a lot of good teams in the Mountain West, and everybody’s hungry to win it. It’s a difficult thing to cut down those nets.”

Vandal men draw Southern Utah

The second-seeded Idaho men’s basketball team opens the Big Sky Tournament against Southern Utah at 6:35 p.m. Mountain time Thursday at the Reno Events Center.

The Vandals (22-8) wrapped up the regular season with a 78-76 win over the Thunderbirds (12-18) on March 3, earning the No. 2 seed for the first time since the 1992-93 season.

Thursday’s game will be broadcast on Eleven Sports/PlutoTV or online at GoVandals.com/WatchMBB.

Rachel Roberts: 208-377-6422, @byrachelroberts

Mountain West Tournament schedules

At The Thomas & Mack Center, Las Vegas

All times Mountain

Women

Monday

Air Force 68, Utah State 54

Nevada 95, San Diego State 84, OT

New Mexico 84, San Jose State 54

Tuesday

Boise State 60, Air Force 46

Colorado State 71, Fresno State 55

Nevada 77, UNLV 73

Wyoming 69, New Mexico 66

Wednesday

Semifinals

Boise State vs. Colorado State, late

Nevada vs. Wyoming, late

Friday

Championship game, 1 p.m.

Men

Wednesday

UNLV 97, Air Force 90

Utah State 76, Colorado State 65

Wyoming 74, San Jose State 61

Thursday

Nevada vs. UNLV, 1 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)

Fresno State vs. San Diego State, 3:30 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)

Boise State vs. Utah State, 7 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)

New Mexico vs. Wyoming, 9:30 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)

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