One loss was not going to derail the Boise State men’s basketball team.
Saturday’s defeat at the hands of San Diego State was the Broncos’ first in seven weeks. Though coach Leon Rice joked it “was a like a morgue around here,” his team still had more than a dozen games remaining in the regular season.
Still, it did not sit right with the Broncos, something they showed quickly in a 94-69 rout of San Jose State on Wednesday at Taco Bell Arena. A team meeting Monday seemed to reignite something in the group.
“Coach just asked us to do more. So I figured, why not go after ball?” said junior forward James Webb III, who had 24 points and a career-high 18 rebounds.
It was an inspired effort from the get-go for the Broncos (14-5, 5-1 MW), racing out to a 17-point lead less than 12 minutes into the game and not turning the ball over until 1:48 remained before halftime.
After it took all but 21.1 seconds of Saturday’s game to make a 3-pointer, Boise State got one just 45 seconds into the rout of the Spartans (6-13, 1-6), courtesy of junior forward Nick Duncan, who had six in the first half alone.
“It was definitely more than one game. ... There’s a lot on the line,” said Duncan, who had a season-high 24 points. “There’s been an overall conscious effort of everyone, getting motivated, getting in the gym and putting more shots up, and I think that will carry over the rest of the season.”
The last time San Jose State, coached by former Boise State assistant Dave Wojcik, came to Boise, the Broncos won by 50. Though Wednesday’s game wasn’t quite as lopsided, it was refreshing for Rice to see a dominant effort coming off the team’s first loss since Nov. 29. The Broncos’ 94 points were their most ever in a Mountain West game (78 games coming into Wednesday).
“Human nature is to maybe feel sorry for yourself. Human nature is to say, ‘Well, it’s not San Diego State we’re playing tonight,’ ” Rice said. “... That shows there was a focus.
“We needed that. We needed to play well.”
Rice didn’t think Monday’s meeting was abnormal, saying there wasn’t a “crisis” and “the wheels were not off.” But they corrected some issues when the Spartans whittled the lead down to 47-41 with 16:44 to play. It may have appeared to be the latest second-half lull, but Boise State responded with a 17-5 run to put it away.
“We focused on finishing teams off. We get tired of hearing from other coaches and the media, stuff like that, that we can’t finish off games. So I think it was just a little extra motivation,” Webb said.
Boise State outrebounded San Jose State 49-31, including a 16-4 edge on offensive rebounds. Senior guard Mikey Thompson added 16 points for the Broncos, while freshman guard Paris Austin had 11 points off the bench, his most against a Division I opponent this season.
“Every time I come off the bench, I feel like I’ve got to bring the most energy,” Austin said. “I’m one of the smallest guys, so I’ve got to have a real big impact when I come into the game.”
Added Duncan: “I think the whole team’s been putting extra work in after the San Diego State game, and he’s been putting a lot of work in.”
The Broncos hope to build another win streak the hard way, heading out for consecutive road games, starting Saturday at Wyoming. But focused on the task at hand, the Broncos did exactly what was necessary against the Spartans.
“We have five home games left. It’s crazy, so you’ve got to cherish these,” Rice said. “You go out and you play your best, you let it rip and let the chips fall. I thought we did that for a lot of minutes.”
Boise State (14-5, 5-1 MW) at Wyoming (10-10, 3-4), 2 p.m. Saturday (ESPN3, 670 AM/93.1 FM)