Well before they played their first game of the 2018-19 season, members of the Boise State women’s basketball team settled on the motto “strength in numbers.”
In keeping with that theme, 10 different Broncos have led the team or shared the team lead in scoring in a game this season. The statistic is tied for the national lead with No. 14 South Carolina and Milwaukee.
And the longer junior guard Riley Lupfer remains sidelined with an undisclosed injury, the more critical scoring diversity is likely to become for the Broncos.
Boise State (21-4, 12-2) has a one-game lead over New Mexico (21-4, 11-3) and Wyoming (18-5, 11-3) for first place in the Mountain West Conference standings with four games remaining in the regular season. The Broncos next play at last-place Colorado State (8-17, 2-12) at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Fort Collins, Colorado.
“I really feel positive about the kids that are coming off the bench right now,” Boise State coach Gordy Presnell said. “They’ve done a great job of ... buying into that role. We’re down to the stretch run here, and hopefully we can (continue to) get that kind of output out of our bench, because I’ve always thought that six, seven and eight is what wins games for you.”
In four games without Lupfer — the Mountain West Preseason Player of the Year — the Broncos have gone 3-1. The bench averaged 24.6 points per game in wins over San Jose State, Fresno State and San Diego State, but had just 10 points in a loss at Utah State — its second-lowest total of the season.
Overall, 11 Broncos are averaging 8.4 or more minutes per game, and 10 of those players contribute 4.0 points per game or more. The bench has accounted for 36 percent (683-of-1,899) of Boise State’s total points through 25 games.
“I think for all of us coming off the bench, the expectation that we have for ourselves and the coaches have for us as well is that we don’t want there to be a deficit when we go in,” Boise State junior Ellie Woerner said. “When the starters come out, we should go in and be able to pick up right where they left off.”
The Broncos’ ability to share the scoring burden has allowed them to push the pace of play against opponents. Presnell initially worried that some of his starters might become disgruntled over reduced playing time, but it’s proven quite the opposite.
“I think for all of us, we know that practice plays a big role in getting our opportunities in games, so that’s what makes practice so competitive,” said Woerner, who averages 4.0 points and 2.6 rebounds in 14.8 minutes. “It’s kind of fun, because every day you get a chance to try and prove yourself and earn some minutes.”
Presnell has made it a point to keep all of his players under 30 minutes per game as much as possible to avoid burnout late in the season. Lupfer averages the most minutes of anyone on the team at 28.3 per game.
Jayde Christopher, A’Shanti Coleman, Joyce Harrell, Marta Hermida, Braydey Hodgins and Lupfer rotate as starters, but it isn’t unusual to see Woerner, Rachel Bowers, Tess Amundsen, Jade Loville and others log significant minutes when a game is still on the line.
“We know in practice the bench can beat the starters just as easily,” Hodgins said.
Boise State has the top scoring offense in the Mountain West at 76.0 points per game, but it wouldn’t be there without its bench. The Broncos’ reserves have contributed as many as 55 points in a single game and average 27.3. Boise State’s average margin of victory is 11.7 points.
“I think every time I go in, I just want to produce in any way that I can,” said Loville, who averages 4.4 points and 10.6 minutes for the Broncos. “Whether that’s getting some rebounds, getting an assist, or if I’m set up for a shot and just knocking down that shot. It’s just taking every opportunity and using it to my best ability.”
Note: Wednesday’s game will be streamed online at WatchStadium.com and on the radio at 1350 AM.
Men: ‘Let the fur fly’
There are only four games left in the regular season, but Boise State men’s basketball coach Leon Rice isn’t prepared to talk about a best-case scenario for the Broncos going into the Mountain West Tournament.
Boise State (11-16, 6-8) wraps up the season against Colorado State (11-16, 6-8), UNLV (15-12, 9-6), New Mexico (11-15, 5-9) and Air Force (12-15, 7-8), and those are the teams that occupy the two spots directly above and below Boise State in the current conference standings.
That means the Broncos could finish anywhere from fifth to ninth once all is said and done.
“Our staff, we were just talking about that today. There’s still a lot of things that can happen, so that hasn’t been a big focus yet,” Rice said. “... It really isn’t about that. Maybe it might be in a week because then more things will sort out, but it’s mostly about: ‘Can we play our best? Can we get just that 1 percent better?’ If we do that today, then who knows?
“That’s what I keep saying. That’s what these guys feel. We’re fighting to get better, and if we do get better, then let’s let the fur fly and see where it ends up.”
Boise State hosts Colorado State at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Taco Bell Arena. The Broncos and Rams are tied for seventh in the standings, but Boise State won 70-68 at Colorado State and would own the head-to-head tiebreaker with a season sweep.
Note: Wednesday’s game will be streamed live online on Stadium College Basketball’s Facebook page and air on the radio on 670 AM.