Boise State Fresno State BASKETBALL21.JPG

Boise State head basketball coach Leon Rice listens to his coaching staff on the bench during the game against Fresno State on Dec. 28 at ExtraMile Arena in Boise.

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Boise State men’s basketball coach Leon Rice said that his first indication of a problem came when he noticed the team’s pregame meal on Jan. 1 in Laramie, Wyoming “sounded like a hospital emergency room.”

That triggered the Broncos into their COVID testing protocol and by the time the game against Wyoming was scheduled to tip off, Boise State was in a COVID pause.

“We had quite a large number that tested positive,” Rice said Monday, his first media availability since the Broncos went into the pause. “The tough thing about that is we had some guys that were really, really sick. The most important thing is if your son is playing for me, I’m going to look out for him and his health and that’s where it starts.”

Boise State ended up having two other games postponed during the pause, a game at Utah State and a home game against then-unbeaten Colorado State. On Monday, the Mountain West rescheduled the Utah State game for Jan. 20. The other two games have yet to be rescheduled. If they are not able to be played, they will be ruled no contests.

Boise State returned to the practice court on Friday and Rice said the Broncos are close to having their full roster available for Wednesday’s game at Nevada. The coach said he has no reason to believe Wednesday’s game won’t happen, but he added that he’s learned from experience over the past couple of weeks to never speak in absolutes.

“The spirits were really, really up the first moments we got in the gym,” Rice said. “These guys love to play, and we were playing great and the last thing we wanted to do was pause. We had one of the best player-run practices that we’ve had since I’ve been here. But that doesn’t mean any shots were going in, it doesn’t mean we were back to how sharp we were before the layups. The spirit’s there, the want to is there, we’re going to get it back.”

Rice said he’s watched other teams throughout the country come back from their COVID pause and seem to be missing a step, so he knows that will be a concern. The Wolf Pack will also be playing their first game back from a COVID pause.

“We’re going to try and fix that,” Rice said about the drop off. “We’re going to fight to understand what we’re up against as far as the challenges you do face when you’re paused.”

Boise State (10-4, 1-0 Mountain West) went into the pause on a seven-game winning streak, its last game being a 65-55 win against Fresno State in its conference opener. During its current winning streak, the Broncos have not allowed more than 60 points in a game.

BOISE STATE WOMEN GAME AT WYOMING RESCHEDULED

In addition to the men’s team’s game against Utah State, the Boise State women’s basketball team also had its game at Wyoming, which was scheduled for Jan. 3, rescheduled for Jan. 25 in Laramie.

The game was postponed due to COVID-19 issues within the Wyoming program. Boise State’s game at Nevada on Jan. 6 was also postponed due to COVID-19 issues with the Wolf Pack. No makeup date has been announced for that game.

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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