If you can’t make a shot, you better stop one. The Boise State men’s basketball team was unable to do either for much of the second half Saturday.
Missing 21 of their first 28 field goals after halftime and allowing New Mexico to shoot 56.5 percent in the final 20 minutes, the Broncos lost their second straight game, an 88-83 defeat at Taco Bell Arena in front of a crowd of 7,355.
Like Wednesday’s loss at UNLV, the Broncos were gashed in the second half by the Lobos, which no doubt has become an issue.
“Our problem right now is on the defensive end,” Boise State coach Leon Rice said. “You can’t put that much pressure on your offense, that much pressure on everything you do.
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“It’s cost us these last two games. ... It has to mean everything to them. We’ve had some guys in the past that would be, ‘Hey, let me guard that guy, I’ll do it.’ I’m not sure we’ve got a team full of those guys right now. We need to change our mindset that way if we want to be competitive in this league.”
New Mexico (13-8, 6-2 MW) had a 14-0 run midway through the second half to build a 59-50 edge, erasing the largest lead of the game for Boise State (15-7, 6-3). When the Broncos had a chance to stop the run from building, it was a microcosm of the Broncos’ night.
Down 54-50 with 11:35 to play, junior forward Nick Duncan missed the front end of a one-and-one, but New Mexico was called for a lane violation. Duncan missed the next, then missed a putback, then junior forward James Webb III missed. The Lobos raced up the floor off the miss, and guard Elijah Brown buried a 3-pointer.
The Broncos missed 12 straight field goals during the scoreless span, but responded with a 15-3 run to take a brief lead. New Mexico guard Cullen Neal hit a 3-pointer with 4:35 to play to take a 69-67 lead the Lobos never relented, part of a 5-for-5 shooting streak to end the game.
“It’s nothing going on with our offense, it’s all about our defense,” Boise State senior guard Lonnie Jackson said. “We’ve got to come and play every possession, not a five-minute stretch where we’re playing hard. ... We can’t just bring it here and there.”
While the defense was surely to blame, the offense wasn’t much help for long stretches, making just 4-of-15 shots from inside the 3-point line in the second half.
“We just lived with the 3, didn’t want to get any paint touches. We just settled way too much,” senior guard Mikey Thompson said.
Thompson put up an outstanding game, scoring 17 points with 10 assists and no turnovers. His points-assists double-double is the Broncos’ first since Jan. 24, 2009, and his double-digit assists without a turnover is the only one for a Bronco in the past 30 years.
After the game, Thompson said it will fall on the likes of himself and Jackson (17 points) to foster a more aggressive demeanor.
“Sometimes I think they’d like to defer to the coaches, and that’s not when you’re really good,” Rice said. “When you’re really good, your players will solve the problems. They have to find a way to come out of their shell. Last year’s team was a good example. That was a player-led team. If a team would go on a run, they would huddle up and they’d get it done. It wouldn’t be looking around waiting for us to get it done for them.”
Said Thompson: “I’ve got to step it up a little more, stop being quiet and hold guys accountable to get better.”
Brown — whose father, Mike, the former Cavaliers and Lakers coach, was at the game — led all scorers with 30 points. Duncan had a team-high 19 points for the Broncos, who also got eight points and 13 rebounds from Webb, and 10 points from senior guard/forward Anthony Drmic.
Halfway through the conference slate, sitting in third in the Mountain West, the Broncos have a quick turnaround as they prepare to face Utah State at 7 p.m. Tuesday at home. As an at-large NCAA Tournament bid appears more and more unlikely for anyone in the league, playing well in the second half and in March’s conference tournament looms large.
“Everything’s out there for them to achieve still,” Rice said.
Utah State (11-9, 3-6 MW) at Boise State (15-7, 6-3), 7 p.m. Tuesday (ESPN3, 670 AM)