BOISE — Boise State men’s basketball coach Leon Rice, his players and their fans have seen first-hand the challenge of the Mountain West Conference. Even Rice’s 8-year-old son, Kade, is finding it tough.
“When are you going to win a conference game?” he asked earlier this week.
Kade will have to wait a little longer.
The Broncos fell to 0-5 in the MWC, dropping their sixth game in a row, falling 75-64 to Wyoming at Taco Bell Arena on Saturday against one of the nation’s best defensive teams.
“It’s really tough,” Rice said. “There comes a time where you just want them to get rewarded for some hard work. You look around, and there’s just nowhere to come up for air in this league.”
Boise State (10-10, 0-5 MWC) became just the third team to score more than 60 points on the Cowboys this season, but a strong start and an efficient offensive day for the visitors meant the Broncos never could find the lead.
The Broncos trailed 16-8 with 13 minutes elapsed, making two of their first 12 field goal attempts. After taking a 24-14 edge with 3:39 left in the first half, Wyoming never led by fewer than double digits.
“They played defense pretty well,” said Boise State sophomore forward Ryan Watkins, who had 12 points and six rebounds. ”That’s one thing we’ve got to fix. We can’t dig ourselves into that hole. We’ve got to come out firing on all cylinders.”
Playing tough defense, as usual, on one end, Wyoming also was excellent when it had the ball. The Cowboys were 25-of-38 (65.8 percent) from the field and made 17-of-19 free throws. They also made 8-of-14 3-point attempts.
“We just executed very well … they kicked it out to us and we were wide open,” Wyoming guard Luke Martinez (17 points) said. “It’s a high-percentage shot.”
Though the Broncos were the third team to eclipse 60 on the Cowboys, they fell to 0-8 when scoring 64 points or fewer. Boise State’s starters combined for 25 points, but the Broncos got strong showings from Watkins, senior Tre Nichols (11 points) and freshman Joe Hanstad (13 points) off the bench.
“It was just nice to know the coaches have confidence in me,” said Hanstad, who had five points in seven games before Saturday. “That’s what’s good about our team — everyone can play.”
While it’s true that the Broncos have shown they can get good performances from its newcomers like Hanstad, Anthony Drmic or Derrick Marks, it hasn’t quite come together in one game thus far in 2012.
“The tendency with young guys is to be a little up and down,” Rice said. “There’s no room for down in this league.”
The Broncos’ coach said he’s hoping his team, which played six players Saturday that did not play at Boise State last season, will bounce back in February — but they first play at No. 13 San Diego State on Wednesday, which is coming off a loss to Colorado State.
Managing that fickle thing that is intensity, particularly in his young squad, is something Rice knows he often is battling, and will continue to do so.
“You get down, it affects your mentality, too,” Rice said. “With our young guys, they’d be down six and had this look in their eye like their down 15 … You can’t give a C or B effort in this league. We have to give an A-plus effort.”
Wyoming 84, Boise State 64: Boise State could not get its shots to fall Saturday afternoon as the Broncos lost 84-64 to Wyoming in Laramie. The Broncos shot 38.7 percent from the floor, while Wyoming hit 53.4 percent. Boise State was down 18 at the half and trailed by as many as 37 with five and half minutes left.
The loss extends the Bronco losing streak to four games while they go to 11-10 on the year and 2-4 in conference. Meanwhile, Wyoming improved to 7-12 overall and 3-3 in league.