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Boise State men’s basketball head coach Leon Rice coaches from the sidelines during the Broncos’ season opener against Utah Valley on Tuesday at ExtraMile Arena.

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The Boise State men’s basketball team had just five assists in a disappointing 58-50 loss at UC Irvine Saturday night.

And the reason for that was rather simple.

“You can’t get an assist if you don’t make a shot,” Boise State coach Leon Rice quipped. “You don’t get an assist for an attempt. You get an assist if you make a shot. And those numbers were horrendous.”

Indeed Boise State’s poor shooting was the bigger story and reason for the loss. The Broncos shot just 32% from the field (19 of 59) and made just 3 of 22 from 3-point range (13.6%). Many of the shots were wide open, and several were missed layups and short shots.

Maybe it was first road game jitters or just an off night, but the Broncos were ice cold from the field. And it doomed them in their first loss of the year.

“Basketball is a game where you have to make some shots to win it, and we certainly didn’t do that,” Rice said. “We have good shooters and with shooters you don’t want to make a mountain out of a molehill. The best way to shoot better is to take better shots, but we missed a lot around the rim too. We missed some layups.

“It was a back-and-forth game and we’d miss some layups and that got them to a four- or six-point lead and in a defensive struggle a four- or six-point lead is big.”

Marcus Shaver Jr. led the Broncos with 14 points in his season debut after missing Tuesday’s season opener with a hand injury.

Emmanuel Akot had 11 points and Devonaire Doutrive and Abu Kigab had nine points each for the Broncos, who had 11 turnovers and just two points from the bench.

Boise State made just 4 of 20 from 3-point range in a 76-56 win over Utah Valley on Tuesday. Add in the 3 of 22 on Saturday night, and the Broncos are just 7 of 44 (15.9%) from beyond the arc through two games.

“I saw a drop in confidence as far as shooting it and I never want to see that,” Rice said. “That’s something we’ll address and something we’ll work on and get better at. We have good shooters, good players, they just have to have the confidence to go out and do it – and they will.”

Boise State led 11-6 in the early going on a bucket from Mladen Armus on the inside. But Irvine followed with the next eight points to pull ahead 14-11.

The Broncos responded with back-to-back 3s from Doutrive and Akot, and Akot followed with another bucket to put Boise State up 19-14 with 7:45 left in the first half.

But Irvine again responded — a theme throughout the night — and went up 24-23 on a 3-pointer with 3:50 left in the half.

The Broncos got a putback from Naje Smith, but didn’t score again in the final three minutes of the half and Irvine pulled ahead 27-25 at the break.

The lead continued to go back and forth throughout the second half. UC Irvine went up 34-31 with 15:50 to go, but the Broncos responded with buckets from Akot and Shaver to pull ahead 35-34 with 11:45 left.

The Broncos led 37-36 on a basket from Shaver with 8:55 left but Irvine rattled off the next eight points to pull ahead 44-37 with 6:38 left. The seven-point lead was the biggest of the game by either team.

Doutrive and Kigab responded with buckets to pull the Broncos within 44-41, but Dawson Baker answered with a 3-pointer and JC Butler hit a floater as Irvine extended the lead to 49-41 with 4:22 to play.

Akot hit two free throws but DJ Davis put the game out of reach with another 3-pointer for Irvine to make it 52-43 with 2:57 to go.

Things won’t get any easier for the Broncos, who head to the Charleston Classic and open up against No. 23 St. Bonaventure on Wednesday at noon.

“We missed some shots early and just let it snowball on us,” Rice said. “We missed some lay-ins and even some free throws at crucial times. You have to make some shots because our defense did its job. I thought we played a heck of a defensive game. Our defense did enough for us to win, our offense has to continue to grow — and it will.”

B.J. Rains has covered Boise State athletics for the Idaho Press since 2013 and is a three-time winner of the NSMA Idaho Sportswriter of the Year Award. He appears on KTIK 93.1 FM The Ticket every Friday at 4 p.m. for the Blue Turf Sports report.

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