Addition by subtraction aided in Boise State’s current win streak
LARAMIE -- Boise State lost to who?
That's a phrase you might have said to yourself early in the non-conference slate.
In the Broncos (10-4, 1-0) first seven games of the season they won just three. That's uncharacteristic for a Leon Rice team. It was also an unexpected, sluggish start -- especially on the offensive side of the ball -- for a roster that features six players who have the word senior in their bios.
Also atypical, Boise State dropped two of those tilts inside the friendly confines of ExtraMile Arena. One was a 46-39 setback at the hands of Cal-State Bakersfield. Boise State shot just 22.4% from the field in that stunner.
Yes, you read that right.
The Broncos added losses to Irvine, No. 22 St. Bonaventure and St. Louis outside of league play.
Jeff Linder has a couple theories.
"They had a really tough non-conference schedule," Wyoming's second-year head coach said. "... Then so they had to figure some things out when (Devonaire) Doutrive left the team."
That departure happened right after an 86-82 overtime home loss to the Billikens, in which the former Arizona transfer came off the bench and played a season-low 13 minutes while netting just a single free throw.
“You know, (Devonaire) is always gonna be a Bronco for us. And that’s hard, but that’s what the team needed," Rice told the Idaho Statesman after a 63-58 win over Tulsa on Dec. 3. "And I always have to look out for the team. That’s my job. But it makes for an emotional, tough week for everybody. We’re about our culture and about our team, and so those situations are rough.”
Doutrive, a former four-star player and the second-highest rated signee in Boise State history, averaged 9.1 points per game while shooting just under 38% from the field.
Post-Doutrive, the Broncos have won seven straight, the latest being a 65-55 victory over Fresno State in Tuesday's Mountain West opener.
Rice's bunch is averaging nearly 74 points per game during this current streak. The Broncos also went on the road to Pullman, Washington last week and knocked off Washington State.
How did the Broncos flip the switch so quickly?
For one, they are "old," Linder joked.
"I mean, they're really old, which is a good thing," he said. "That's how you win a lot of games in college basketball, especially when they're old and they're good. It's one thing if they were old and bad."
There's more to this story.
"From that point (post Doutrive), you know, you can see they are not having to cater to as many guys, having to feed as many mouths," Linder continued. "I think their roles have been defined much more and guys know exactly what they are supposed to do. You can see the way they are playing, the ball is moving a little bit more. You know, certain guys, (Abu) Kigab has the ball in his hands more. (Marcus) Shaver has the ball in his hands more. (Emmanuel) Akot has the ball in his hands more.
"... They're playing better offensively."
Kigab, a 6-foot-7 forward, leads the Broncos in scoring, averaging 14.2 points per game. Shaver is right behind him with 12.9 a night. Akot is atop the statistics in assists with 3.1 per outing. Those two are guards. All three average double-digit scoring.
Freshman Tyson Degenhart has stepped in for Doutrive and is averaged 8.6 points and 3.2 rebounds per game.
"You know, for whatever reason, it's just sometimes less is more," Linder said. "Since whenever that change was made, I think they've definitely taken a step in the right direction."
Wyoming (11-2) and Boise State meet Saturday inside the Arena-Auditorium for a 2 p.m. tipoff. The Broncos have won seven straight in the series, dating back to Jan. 6, 2018. That was a 79-78 overtime victory for the Cowboys in Laramie.