Inside Slant: Boise State Basketball

Boise State squandered its chance to stay one game above the WAC cellar, and now things will get really difficult. The Broncos were thrashed at home by Idaho, 79-55, on Feb. 6 in what was their worst loss in the history of the state rivalry. Bad timing. Both teams entered the game tied for last place in the WAC with Hawaii. By the end of the night, only Boise State and Hawaii were tied for last..

GETTING INSIDE

Boise State squandered its chance to stay one game above the WAC cellar, and now things will get really difficult.

The Broncos were thrashed at home by Idaho, 79-55, on Feb. 6 in what was their worst loss in the history of the state rivalry. Bad timing. Both teams entered the game tied for last place in the WAC with Hawaii.

By the end of the night, only Boise State and Hawaii were tied for last at 2-8 in the league. Idaho was seventh at 3-7. The team that finishes last in the nine-team league won't be going to the league tournament this season, as the WAC eliminated the play-in game as a cost-cutting measure.

Now, Boise State's next four conference games are against the four best teams in the WAC -- Utah State (Feb. 11), Nevada (Feb. 13), at Louisiana Tech (Feb. 25) and at New Mexico State (Feb. 27).

Boise State won't be favored to win any of those games and, if that holds, could enter the final weekend of the regular season -- Hawaii and San Jose State at home -- in desperation mode, at least needing a win over the Warriors.

Coach Greg Graham figured his team would be in something of desperation mode against in the home game against Idaho, but the Vandals stomped on the Broncos, which committed 14 first-half turnovers and fell behind 45-19 at the break.

"I think we just came to play and they came to get after us and win," Graham said.

NOTES, QUOTES

--Boise State will play host to UC Davis in the ESPN BracketBusters event on Feb. 20. UC Davis, from the Big West Conference, has played one WAC team this season, losing at Fresno State 68-57 on Dec. 17.

--Boise State's lousy first half against Idaho on Feb. 6 -- the Broncos' 19 points were their lowest first-half total of the season -- meant that the biggest home crowd of the season never had a chance to make an impact. Boise State drew 7,734 for the state rivalry game.

ON THE SPOT: The lack of a big-time, go-to scorer has been a season-long problem for Boise State, but it's hard to single out just one player for the Broncos' repeated slow starts. The Idaho game on Feb. 6 marked the third consecutive game in which Boise State failed to reach double-digit points by the halfway mark of the first half. Getting the ball down low to leading scorer Ike Okoye (12.8 points per game) might need to be a bigger priority.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Without even a chance, that would be devastating." -- PF Ike Okoye, on the possibility of missing the WAC tournament and not being able to compete for the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

SEASON RECAP: Boise State has received some good play from newcomers Robert Arnold and Daequon Montreal, and senior PF Ike Okoye stepped up nicely this season when given a full-time role. But the Broncos have had trouble identifying a go-to scorer and their defense hasn't compensated for the lack of firepower. Boise State allows league foes to shoot 48.8 percent from the field.

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

GAME REVIEW:
Boise State 77, Idaho 67 (OT)
Boise State 65, Fresno State 49
Idaho 79, Boise State 55

GAME PREVIEW:
vs. Utah State, Thursday, Feb. 11
at Nevada, Saturday, Feb. 13
vs. Cal State-Bakersfield, Wednesday, Feb. 17
vs. UC Davis, Saturday, Feb. 20
at Louisiana Tech, Thursday, Feb. 25

IN FOCUS: The conference schedule is entering a brutal stretch, including this weekend's game at Nevada, which won the first meeting of the season 88-82 in Boise. It's a match of a high-scoring Wolf Pack team against a porous Boise State defense. The Broncos had no answer for Nevada star Luke Babbitt in the first meeting, as the sophomore forward poured in 29 points and grabbed 11 rebounds.

ROSTER REPORT:
--Senior C Kurt Cunningham, who graduated last spring, was selected to the Academic All-District 8 men's basketball team, as selected by the College Sports Information Directors of America/ESPN the Magazine. Cunningham graduated with a 3.42 grade-point average in marketing. He is working on his master's degree in athletic administration.
--Junior G La'Shard Anderson had four steals against Idaho on Feb. 6 to give him 59 for the season, ranking fifth on the school's single-season list.


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