Boise St Utah St Basketball

Boise State head coach Leon Rice argues a call with an official during a 70-61 loss at Utah State on Saturday night.

BOISE — Boise State coach Leon Rice is hoping to stay and watch the entirety of Tuesday’s 7 p.m. matchup with Air Force at ExtraMile Arena.

He missed the second half of an 85-78 loss at Air Force on January 15 after being ejected while arguing a call late in the first half.

“I regret that,” Rice said Monday. “I’m still mad about that. I didn’t do a good enough job last time we played them. I want to stick around for the whole thing this time.”

Rice then told the reporter he was “pouring salt in my wound” when reminded of the ejection.

But Boise State has won five of six games since that ejection at Air Force four weeks ago, including five straight prior to Saturday’s disappointing 70-61 loss at Utah State.

Air Force, meanwhile, hasn’t won since. They’ve lost six games in a row to fall to 3-9 in Mountain West play after beating Utah State and then the Broncos in an eight-day span.

“That was in the middle of our growth stretch and sometimes it’s not who you play but when you play them,” Rice said. “They have a bunch of seniors, and that’s what scares me. They are good kids, hard workers — if they’ve made it to this point at the United States Air Force Academy, they are tough kids and good kids.

“They are going to get it going, I know that. I just don’t want it to be (Tuesday), and we can’t let it be. Last time we played them, they beat us, so we have to play better.”

The game is the start of a big week for the Broncos. After hosting Air Force on Tuesday night, they will welcome in No. 4 San Diego State (25-0) for a Sunday afternoon matchup at ExtraMile Arena.

“It’s huge, but it’s not a week,” Rice said. “It’s 1-0. Air Force has our attention. I don’t even know who we play Sunday and I don’t care. It’s Air Force first, and our guys will be dialed in and ready to play them.”


Rice’s frustrations with officials during Saturday’s game at Utah State were clear. Two days later, he was still not interested in commenting on it.

A closer look at the foul situation showed Utah State was not called for a foul in the final 6:06 of the game, while the Broncos were called for eight fouls in the same time frame. Utah State went 15 of 16 from the free throw line during that stretch.

The Aggies didn’t score a field goal from 6:17 left in the game until there was just 11 seconds remaining — a span of more than six minutes — yet, extended the lead from five to six points during that time period.

“I have to respectfully say no comment to that,” Rice said as he did Saturday night after the game.

Boise State was called for two flagrant fouls during the game and was on the wrong side of a number of close calls in the final few minutes. There were two double fouls in the game, a technical foul called on Utah State coach Craig Smith and a total of 49 fouls and 54 free throws shot in the game.

Two of the officials were less experienced and less-frequently assigned to games than those officials that typically rate higher. Chad Shepherd has worked just 18 Division I games this year, while Ryan McDaniel has done 33. To compare, many of the higher-rated officials have worked more than 60 games this season, with some working as many as 81 games.

Many of McDaniel’s games have been in the Southland, WAC and Big Sky conferences, but he has received three Mountain West and three Pac-12 assignments. Shepherd has done one Pac 12 game, three Mountain West games, four Big Sky games and one WCC game. Nine of his last 11 games have come on a Saturday, when more games are played and more officials are needed.

As for dealing with the painful loss, Rice said the Broncos had no choice but to “turn the page” and move forward.

“That’s always been our focus,” Rice said. “You look at our game here (against Utah State) and our game down there, you saw a team that is improved. We’re getting better. And that’s a credit to my guys. They are here to get better. They play through highs and lows and show up with their lunch pails and hard hats and go to work.

“I was really proud of their grit and toughness and effort in that environment. We took another step. We didn’t accomplish the mission, but we were right there to do it. We’re getting better. We’re a good team, but let’s take one more step and become a great team.”


Rice hinted that forward Abu Kigab likely will miss a third-straight game Tuesday against Air Force. The Oregon transfer is dealing with a hip pointer suffered against Nevada. While he’s officially listed as a game-time decision, it would seem more likely Kigab makes his return Sunday against the undefeated Aztecs.


Plenty of tickets remain in all areas for Tuesday’s game against Air Force. The same can not be said for Sunday’s showdown with San Diego State. Only single seats remain in the bottom two levels for Sunday’s game, and the third deck is starting to fill up as well. Tickets start at $20 and can be purchased at The Aztecs will be the second-highest ranked team ever to play the Broncos in Boise, and a near sellout is expected.

B.J Rains has covered Boise State athletics for the Idaho Press since 2013. He is an Associated Press Top 25 men's basketball poll voter, and also contributes to KBOI-TV as a Boise State insider.

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