Inside Slant: Boise State Basketball

The Broncos, who have struggled out of the gate in conference play, on Thursday get what has been the perfect antidote to a losing streak -- San Jose State. Boise State hasn't lost to the Spartans under coach Greg Graham. That's a streak of 14 consecutive victories. SJSU last defeated Boise State in 2002, which was the Broncos' first season in the Western Athletic Conference.

Boise State (9-8, 0-4 WAC) hasn't started this poorly in conference play since 1991-92, when coach Bobby Dye's Broncos began 0-4 in the Big Sky Conference.

Because of the slow start, Boise State now is alone in last place and is the only WAC team without a conference victory.

With the new conference rules that only allow eight teams into the postseason tournament, the Broncos are in danger of being left out of the playoffs for the first time since 1999-00 in the Big West era.

LOUISIANA TECH 79, BOISE STATE 64: Cold-shooting Boise State fell behind midway through the first half and couldn't catch up to the WAC's only unbeaten team at Taco Bell Arena. Reggie Arnold led the Broncos in scoring for the second game in a row, tallying 18 points to lead three Boise State players in double figures. Anthony Thomas matched a season-high with 15 points, while Kurt Cunningham chipped in 10. Boise State made only 38.2 percent of its shots in the loss.

--Boise State was shooting 30.8 percent from behind the arc (84 of 273) through Jan. 10, ranking last in the league in that category. That's one of the issues for the Broncos, who dropped to 0-3 in the league with an 88-85 home loss to New Mexico State on Saturday.

They rallied from a nine-point deficit to take a four-point lead with less than two minutes to play, but turnovers and missed 3-point looks doomed Boise State to another conference loss.

"Just couldn't knock them down," coach Greg Graham said of the late shots.

On the plus side, Boise State can be encouraged by the contributions of two junior college transfers -- forwards Daequon Montreal and Robert Arnold.

Montreal, coming off the bench, entered the week averaging a team-best 17.3 points in three conference games. Arnold had his highest scoring output with 26 points against New Mexico State, although his season-long 27.3 percent shooting from behind the arc (15 of 55) was a microcosm of the team's woes.

--The Broncos had never started 0-3 in the WAC before. The last time they were winless through their first three conference games was in the 1999-2000 season, when Boise State was in the Big West under coach Rod Jensen.

--It was easy to point to late game failures against New Mexico State on Jan. 9 as a four-point lead with less than two minutes to play turned into a three-point loss. Another culprit, across the entire game, was poor free throw shooting. The Broncos were 12 of 22 for the game. They also had 10 second-half turnovers. "Those are two things that we can take care of, and that's why I'm optimistic that we can get over the hump," coach Greg Graham said.

ON THE SPOT: Boise State has plenty of issues -- defense being at the top of the list. The Broncos have allowed WAC opponents to make 45 percent of their field goals or better in all four conference games this season.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We have to play all 40 minutes, not 38 or 37." -- PF Ike Okoye, after the 88-85 loss to New Mexico State.


SEASON RECAP: Boise State wasn't often tested in the nonconference season and then struggled as conference play began. The Broncos juggled the lineup on Jan. 4 in a loss at Hawaii, with Anthony Thomas at the point and forward Paul Noonan entering the starting group in place of guard La'Shard Anderson. Noonan missed the next game, against New Mexico State, with an ankle injury.

PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters -- PG Anthony Thomas, G La'Shard Anderson, SF Robert Arnold, PF Ike Okoye, C Kurt Cunningham. Key Subs -- SF Paul Noonan, F Daequon Montreal, C Zack Moritz

Fresno State 71, Boise State 68
Hawaii 76, Boise State 68
New Mexico State 88, Boise State 85
Louisiana Tech 79, Boise State 64
at San Jose State, Thursday, Jan. 14
at Utah State, Saturday, Jan. 16
vs. Nevada, Wednesday, Jan. 20
at Idaho, Monday, Jan. 25

IN FOCUS: The San Jose State game represents a decent chance for a win even though it's on the road. The Broncos won both meetings last season, taking advantage of the Spartans' porous defense. BSU shot well over 50 percent in each game, making 66 of 119 shots (55.5 percent) in the two games.

--F Paul Noonan injured his ankle in practice last week and missed home games against New Mexico State and Louisiana Tech. Coaches hope he can play Thursday at San Jose State.
--G Justin Salzwedel, a walk-on, has made a 3-point basket in the first half of each the Broncos' past two games. He saw more playing time because of the injury to Paul Noonan.
--G Wes Perryman had surgery on his ankle to remove bone spurs last week. He will miss the rest of the season and will apply for a medical redshirt.

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