In recent weeks, Boise State has shown itself equally capable of great stretches of basketball and some truly odious ones.
During Saturday’s 61-53 loss to Air Force at Clune Arena, the bad moments were far more frequent than the good as the Broncos had no consistency on either offense or defense. A defeat at the hands of the Mountain West’s basement dwellers prompted some immediate soul searching for a team that had won 10 straight games less than a month ago.
“I am concerned about this team,” Boise State coach Leon Rice said. “Every team goes through ups and downs, and right now it’s a down time. ... We need to make this a good team again, because right now, they don’t think they are one.”
It was the third loss in the past four games for the Broncos (16-8, 7-4), while the Falcons (12-12, 3-8) earned their second straight win after having lost their previous eight.
Boise State shot just 27.6 percent (8-of-29) in the second half, following a 31-30 halftime lead, while Air Force shot 62.5 percent (10-of-16). The Broncos made two of their final 11 field-goal attempts, trailing for the final 13:36.
“You can definitely feel some frustration for some guys. We have to figure it out,” said senior guard Lonnie Jackson, who had a team-high 16 points. “We have to get back to Boise State basketball, and we’re not doing anything close that. Every guy needs to look in the mirror and ask themselves if they’re all in.”
For all the numbers that went against the Broncos, like their second-half shooting, second-half defense, 39-33 rebound disadvantage, 5-of-22 shooting from 3-point range, none was bigger than the free-throw line.
Boise State made 10-of-22 free throws, a 45.5 percent clip, while Air Force was 16-of-22. The Broncos made just four of their 11 second-half free throws.
“There’s a lot of things going through my mind, but you can’t win when you do that,” Rice said. “That’s where it begins and ends in this game.”
Trailing 25-15 in the first half after missing eight straight field goals, the Broncos clamped down and held the Falcons to 1-of-11 shooting to end the half, earning the short-lived lead.
They stretched it to five, going up 35-30 after making 2-of-3 to start the second half, but made six field goals the rest of the game.
“We have to reinvent this team, might have to be a team that plays all 10 guys even minutes, because we don’t sustain stuff very well,” Rice said. “I don’t know if it affects their shooting or what, but we’re not shooting it well at all. You need confidence when you’re shooting the ball, and we’ve got the yips right now.”
Sophomore guard CJ Siples had a career-high 25 points for Air Force, eclipsing his previous best of 14 by halftime. Junior forward James Webb III had 12 points and three rebounds, his fewest since the season opener.
“We didn’t do the little things, and they did, got every 50-50 ball, every loose ball, made their free throws,” Jackson said.
The Broncos face another tough test away from home, playing at Colorado State on Saturday, hoping to avoid falling into the middle of the Mountain West pack.
“We’re getting too far from where we were when we won 10 in a row,” Jackson said.
“When things aren’t going our way, we can’t act like the world’s ending, which we’ve done too much lately. We’re letting every little thing affect us. We have to say, ‘They made a run, OK, but here comes ours.’ ”
Boise State (16-8, 7-4 MW) at Colorado State (13-10, 5-5), 7 p.m. Wednesday (ESPN3, 670 AM/1350 AM)