BSU vs CSU Bakersfield BASKETBALL

Boise State guard Marcus Shaver, Jr. (10) drives into the CSU Bakersfield defense during a game last Friday at ExtraMile Arena.

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BOISE — Leon Rice isn’t ready to hit the panic button. Far from it, in fact.

Despite the Boise State men’s basketball sub-.500 record seven games into the season, their coach remains upbeat and hopeful that things can turnaround over the next three months as the Broncos gear up for March.

“Talking to people I’ve been around my whole life, one of the things they say is maybe a strength of mine is that I can keep an even keel on things,” Rice said. “I’m not too high on wins, try not to get too low on losses. When you look at the losses, you got to evaluate it with no emotion involved and try to help them through it. That’s when they need coaching more, when they have heartbreaking losses.”

Boise State (3-4) will look to rebound from two tough losses at home when it hosts Tulsa today, trying to avoid a three-game sweep in its homestand. Coming off wins against Temple and Ole Miss at the Charleston Classic, the Broncos have dropped two games in the last week that they had a chance to win in the final minutes.

Last Friday, the Broncos had a historically bad shooting night in a 46-39 loss to CSU Bakersfield and on Tuesday Boise State took Saint Louis to overtime before falling 86-82.

“We’ve played good competition and grinder games and tough games that will simulate league games,” Rice said. “In the end, that’s what I wanted. It’s hard to live it and it’s hard to go through it, it’s a lot more fun to be 7-0 than having to confront this stuff. But in the end, if you have the guys with character and the guys that don’t point a finger and say ‘hey I can fix my stuff,’ then you have something special.”

For Boise State, one of the first places it has to look at is apparent: The free-throw line. Coming into this game, Boise State is shooting 66 for 117 (54%). As of Thursday, that ranked second-worst in the country, with only Sam Houston State, which is shooting 55.8%, below the Broncos.

After both of Boise State’s recent losses, Rice has been vocal about the need to improve their numbers at the free-throw line, and that was something he talked about again on Thursday.

Rice said this week he went and visited Boise State’s golf team to talk to coaches and players about what to do to overcome ‘the yips.’

“There’s nothing wrong mechanically with them,” Rice said about his team. “It’s not like they don’t work. Abu Kigab has shot more free throws in the last year than maybe any player we’ve ever had. Number one, it’s about getting your mind right and freeing your thoughts when you’re up there.”

The good news for the Broncos: There’s still plenty of time to fix any issues they may have, free throws or otherwise. They still have more than three-quarters of their regular season games left, including the entire Mountain West slate, before they reach the Mountain West Tournament in Las Vegas.

“That’s one of the things I always try to make them understand, that we see the forest (for) the trees,” Rice said. “We got to see the big picture. Sometimes that’s hard when you want to game so badly. You guys saw it, (Saint Louis) is a good team, they’re going to be right on the cusp of an NCAA Tournament. ... We knew what that win would mean to us, but we know that’s basketball, you’ve got to be able to move on quickly. Now we have another good team, Tulsa, coming in on Friday.”

John Wustrow is the assistant sports editor of the Idaho Press. He is a Michigan native and a graduate of Indiana University.

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