BOISE — Colorado State’s Kris Martin had just thrown down a thunderous dunk, and Taco Bell Arena was nearly silent.
All Leon Rice could do was stare off into the crowd in disbelief.
A season filled with several close losses and frustrating finishes had maybe a low point. Boise State looked lethargic and disinterested, suffering maybe its worst loss of the season Wednesday night in a 76-62 drubbing from visiting Colorado State.
The look from Boise State coach Leon Rice with the 15-point deficit early in the second half didn’t get much better the rest of the way as the Broncos (11-17, 6-9 MW) dropped into eighth place in the Mountain West standings with just three games to play.
“It’s for sure a low point. It’s embarrassing to go out there and play like that in front of the fans who come out and see us,” junior Justinian Jessup said. “In practice we move the ball, we play good team defense and then we come out here and don’t do it for some reason.”
On the same court where Boise State nearly upset No. 10 Nevada last month and just four days ago took second place Utah State to overtime, the Broncos fell behind late in the first half and never recovered against a Colorado State team that entered with an identical 11-16 record.
Oddsmakers in Las Vegas pegged the Broncos as 6.5-point favorites Wednesday, but they led just four times (all in the first half and never by more than two points) and trailed by at least 10 points for almost the entire second half.
A Colorado State team that was ranked No. 181 in Ken Pom and had losses to Long Beach State, Louisiana Lafayette, South Dakota State and Southern Illinois dominated the Broncos for much of the game.
“I think that was the perfect word, embarrassing,” guard Alex Hobbs said. “That’s really what it is. I think we’ve had great practices and we come out here and embarrass ourselves. We don’t do the things we’re doing in practice. We don’t do the things that have brought us success in the past, me included. We’re doing things uncharacteristic to Boise State basketball. And it’s on us to fix it.”
Jessup had a team-high 25 points while playing all 40 minutes, while Hobbs added 12 points. RJ Williams had 10, but the Broncos got next to nothing from the rest of the lineup. Rice went small in the second half and played senior centers Zach Haney and David Wacker a total of five minutes as he searched for answers that never came.
Nico Carvacho had 19 points and 14 rebounds to lead five players in double figures for the Rams, who shot 58.2 percent from the field – including a crazy 70.8 percent in the second half.
“They played great tonight,” Rice said. “They played how I thought we were going to play.”
There wasn’t much to be encouraged about if you were in blue and orange. The Broncos made just 5 of 27 shots from 3-point range (18.5 percent), went just 3 of 7 from the foul line and let Colorado State After finding positives in several close losses recently, the Broncos were left trying to explain a surprisingly lethargic and sluggish effort.
“You can’t have Zach go 1 for 5, Marcus (Dickinson) goes 3 for 11, 0 for 7 from 3, Derrick (Alston) 2 for 11, 1 for 6 from 3, Alex 5 for 12, 0 for 4 from 3,” Rice said as he glanced at the stat sheet. “We were 5 for 27 from 3 and it started with bad shot selection and bad ball movement. Malek goes 1 for 5, 0 for 1. It was RJ and Justinian that produced something offensively. Nobody else did.
“The first half was our worst offensive half we’ve had. We never reversed the ball one time. That was disheartening. It was one pass and let me shoot it. The first half offensively, that was embarrassing. That’s the worst half we’ve played all season, and then we dug ourselves a hole and had to overextend ourselves.”
Boise State trailed 33-26 at the half and then 38-30 a short time later when Colorado State scored seven straight points, capped by the run out dunk from Martin, to open its biggest lead of the game at 45-30.
The Broncos briefly charged back after trailing 62-50 when a dumb technical foul on Colorado State appeared to turn the game. Hobbs hit two free throws after a taunting technical on Martin, and Jessup connected on a 3-pointer on the ensuing possession for five straight points.
Williams then stole the ball and scored on a layup to make it a 7-0 Boise State run that somehow had them down just 62-55 with 5:40 to play.
But Colorado State stemmed the tide with consecutive buckets to lead 66-55 and blew it open in the final minutes. A basket from Carvacho with 2:13 left made it 73-57 and sent many of the 5,152 fans to the exits.
“It’s a memory I’m not going to have for very long,” Rice said. “This program is going to get back to where we belong. That’s a promise. We’re not going through this again.”
Things don’t get any easier for the Broncos, who have consecutive road games at UNLV on Saturday and at New Mexico next Wednesday before finishing the regular season at home against Air Force on March 9.
The Broncos appear set to finish with their first losing record since the 2011-12 season, but they’ve got plenty of work to do to make sure things don’t get even worse from here.
“Everybody to a man in the locker room has to look themselves in the mirror and see what they can do better and what they can do to help others around them,” Hobbs said. “We have to bounce back. That’s really all you can do. The way these next couple of weeks go will show our true character and who we really are.”