When adversity strikes, there are those who flee and those who fight.
The Boise State men’s basketball team is determined to keep fighting.
After leading by as many as 11 points near the start of the second half, the Broncos saw their double-digit advantage evaporate in a 69-67 loss to Grand Canyon on Saturday night in front of 7,317 raucous fans at GCU Arena in Phoenix.
Junior guard Pat Dembley drove the length of the court with 5.2 seconds left and had a chance to tie or win it for the Broncos, but his runner in the key didn’t get off in time (and missed, anyway).
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Boise State drops to 2-5, which is the slowest start for the program since 1996-97.
“When we get our stuff right, the game is going to reward us,” Boise State coach Leon Rice told the Idaho Statesman in a postgame interview.
“Well, we’re getting more right as we go, but we’re not up to our standards. We’re not doing it the Boise State way quite yet.”
Moments after Saturday’s loss, Boise State junior RJ Williams tracked down Rice with a request.
“He’s such a great kid. He comes to me right after the game and he’s like, ‘Coach, I want to watch film with you tonight and figure out why I’m traveling,’ ” Rice said. “He’s trying to get better.”
With the Broncos down 66-65 with 27.3 seconds to play, Williams was called for a travel while trying for the go-ahead bucket in the paint. The turnover overshadowed an otherwise stellar night for the transfer from East Los Angeles College, who paced the Broncos with 23 points, seven rebounds, five steals and two assists.
And only 30 seconds before the turnover, a Williams putback had given Boise State a 65-64 lead.
“It’s just execution and doing what we do every day in practice,” Williams said. “... We’ve just got to go harder and when we get back on Sunday get back in the gym, work on the little things, tidy up the little things, and we’ll be good.”
Playing in their fifth straight game away from Taco Bell Arena, the Broncos appeared to be on the cusp of a breakthrough. They started the second half on a 10-0 run, culminating with a 46-35 lead on Derrick Alston’s 3-pointer with 15:12 on the clock.
But the Lopes (5-3) countered with a 12-2 run of their own, pulling within 48-47 with 11:10 remaining in the game.
“We haven’t had much time to get back into the lab and work out the things we need to work out,” Rice said. “But I’m encouraged by the way we were together in one of the toughest college environments on the West Coast.”
Spurred on by a student section that occupied half of the near-capacity arena, the Lopes took their first lead of the second half, 57-56, at the 6-minute mark.
Boise State would regain and lose the lead four more times down the stretch, the last of those leads coming on Williams’ putback with 57 seconds left.
“I heard about how crazy the crowd was, and this was a good experience. This is what college basketball is about,” Boise State junior Marcus Dickinson said. “It’s tough we didn’t pull out the win, but you can tell we’re getting better and better.”
Dickinson and Dembley each had 11 points for Boise State, and reserve Malek Harwell added seven points, including two free throws with 10.9 seconds to go that brought the Broncos within 68-67.
The Broncos then fouled Trey Drechsel with 5.2 seconds on the clock. The Grand Canyon senior guard made 1-of-2 freebies, setting up the Broncos’ final possession. Drechsel (10 points) was one of five Lopes to score in double figures as Grand Canyon improved to 53-8 at home since the start of the 2015-16 season.
“These guys are battling, and we need people to come out and support them through these tough times,” Rice said. “Then they’ll really fall in love with this team the way they’re going to get better.”
Boise State returns home to face Central Washington next Saturday. The game starts at 2 p.m. at Taco Bell Arena.
Note: Boise State junior Alex Hobbs was sidelined for the third time in four games as he continues to recover from an ankle injury.
GRAND CANYON 69, BOISE STATE 67
BOISE STATE (2-5)
RJ Williams 11-14 1-4 23; Pat Dembley 4-8 1-2 11; Marcus Dickinson 5-7 0-0 11; Malek Harwell 1-3 4-4 7; Derrick Alston 2-6 1-2 6; Justinian Jessup 2-8 0-0 5; Zach Haney 2-3 0-0 4; David Wacker 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 27-50 7-12 67.
GRAND CANYON (5-3)
Carlos Johnson 5-9 3-4 14; Damari Milstead 4-9 4-5 13; Oscar Frayer 4-7 1-5 11; Matt Jackson 4-6 0-0 10; Trey Drechsel 4-10 1-2 10; Michael Finke 3-5 0-0 6; Alessandro Lever 1-4 1-2 3; Gerard Martin 1-2 0-0 2; Tim Finke 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 26-54 10-18 69.
Boise State................... 36 31 - 67
Grand Canyon.................. 35 34 - 69
3-point goals — Boise State 6-15 (Dembley 2-5; Harwell 1-1; Dickinson 1-2; Jessup 1-4; Alston 1-3), Grand Canyon 7-23 (Frayer 2-4; Jackson 2-4; Johnson 1-2; Milstead 1-3; Drechsel 1-5; T. Finke 0-1; Lever 0-2; M. Finke 0-2). Fouled out — Boise State-Jessup, Grand Canyon-None. Rebounds — Boise State 28 (Williams 7), Grand Canyon 29 (Jackson 6). Assists — Boise State 5 (Williams 2), Grand Canyon 10 (Drechsel 3; Milstead 3). Total fouls — Boise State 22, Grand Canyon 17. Technical fouls — Boise State-None. A — 7,317.
Women: Washington State 95, Boise State 71
Boise State’s first true road game of the 2018-19 season didn’t go as expected.
The Broncos missed their first nine shots and fell behind by as many as 31 points in a loss to Washington State on Saturday afternoon at Beasley Coliseum in Pullman, Washington.
Boise State (5-2) entered the game No. 12 in the nation in RPI, while Washington State (4-4) was 286th. But those rankings didn’t translate to the hardwood.
“The game’s mental and the rim shrunk on us a little bit, and we didn’t handle that very well,” Boise State women’s basketball coach Gordy Presnell said in a postgame radio interview on 1350 AM.
“Hopefully when we get in a situation with this kind of adversity again, we’ll be able to perform a little bit better.”
The Cougars went 13-for-23 from 3-point range, including a clip of 83 percent in the first half, and shot 55 percent from the field overall. Washington State redshirt junior Borislava Hristova notched a game-leading 30 points, and senior Alexys Swedlund added 24 points with five triples.
“They shot the lights out tonight. I think they made seven of their first 10 threes,” Presnell said. “But we’ve got to be able to get a hand up and challenge their shots or run them off the 3-point line early, and we did not do that.”
The Broncos couldn’t match the Cougars’ hot shooting, finishing 26 percent from deep (7-for-27) and 35 percent from the floor.
Freshman Jade Loville led the Broncos off the bench with 18 points. Junior guards Jayde Christopher (11 points) and Riley Lupfer (12 points) also reached double digits.
Lupfer and senior Marta Hermida entered Saturday’s game leading the Broncos in made 3s, but the two combined to go just 2-for-16 against the Cougars.
Boise State returns to action Friday at home against Eastern Washington. Tipoff is 7 p.m. at Taco Bell Arena.