BOISE — Meeting with the media Thursday morning, Boise State players and coaches were lamenting the potential loss of forward Kenny Buckner for another game — or more.
A few hours later, the Broncos got great news.
Buckner was cleared by the NCAA to play Saturday at TCU after he missed Tuesday’s loss at Colorado State pending an eligibility review. The 6-foot-7, 250-pound transfer from the College of Southern Idaho is second on the team in scoring (9.0 ppg) and third in rebounding (4.3 rpg).
“That’s how fragile college basketball teams can be — you lose one part, it affects all the other parts, too,” Boise State coach Leon Rice said. “... He’s a kid that’s made a big jump. He has a toughness about him. He can physically go toe-to-toe with guys in our league.”
Having Buckner in the lineup has more often than not helped the offense click, as he and Ryan Watkins can rotate to keep a fresh presence inside. The Broncos made 34 percent of their shots from the field Tuesday in a 66-55 loss.
“I don’t think we’ve been getting as open looks as we did early in the season, teams are keying into our 3-point ability,” said freshman Anthony Drmic, 6-of-28 during the Broncos’ three-game losing streak. “We need different looks, getting it inside.”
The Broncos (10-7, 0-2) enter Saturday’s game in Fort Worth on their longest skid since a four-game streak from Jan. 27-Feb. 5 last year. In those three contests, Boise State has been held to less than 60 points each time, something only LSU had done in the 14 games prior.
“When we’re playing really, really well, we’ve had all the parts … it seems when we’ve been getting into a rhythm, we lose somebody,” said Rice, who had guard Iggy Hadziomerovic go down for the season before a Dec. 17 loss at Denver.
The Horned Frogs (10-7, 0-2) defeated No. 15 Virginia earlier this season, but are last in the Mountain West in scoring defense, giving up 71.4 ppg, and in field goal defense (46.6 percent). They are No. 2 in the MWC in turnover margin, giving up the most (14.9 per game), but create 18.1, also tops in the league.
“They look very athletic, they like to push the ball,” Drmic said. “Things haven’t been clicking these last couple games offensively. If we play defense the way we did to start the season, that’s what creates our offense.”