As a long-time assistant at Gonzaga, Leon Rice is used to playing deep into March. His first season as the head coach at Boise State is no different. Well, it's a little different because it's not the NCAA Tournament, but Rice has the Broncos into the semifinals of the College Basketball Invitational where they'll meet Oregon.
Boise State, which dispatched Austin Peay 83-80 at home in the first round, played host to Evansville on Monday in the quarterfinal round at Taco Bell Arena, winning 75-69.
"We'd like to be able to go out on a winning note and only four teams get to do that, the postseason winners," Rice was quoted as saying in the Evansville Courier & Press.
Boise State has won 10 of its past 11 games, losing only to Utah State in the WAC tournament title game in that span.
The Broncos have a veteran team that is looking to go out with a championship in the CBI, while the young players use it as a launching pad to the Mountain West Conference next season.
"Different teams need different things and I think this team really needs to keep playing," Rice said. "We've got seven seniors and we want them to have this opportunity, but it's also important to propel this program into the future. This could be their legacy, the start of a new program."
--Boise State defeated Austin Peay 83-80 in the first round of the College Basketball Invitational as senior PG La'Shard Anderson went coast to coast in the final six seconds, getting up a layup that rolled around and went in with 0.1 seconds left. Austin Peay was then assessed a technical foul for calling a timeout it didn't have, and the Broncos converted the free throws accounting for the final margin. With that game-winning basket, Anderson reached 1,001 career points.
--The win over Austin Peay gave Boise State its first postseason victory since the 2004 NIT. The Broncos had been 0-3 in the postseason since then, including one loss in the NCAAs.
With a win Wednesday in the College Basketball Invitational in Eugene, Boise State would advance to the CBI Championship Series, the best of three setup the tournament uses to crown a champion. Games will be played March 28 and 30 and the third game, which is played only if necessary, is April 1.
--This is Boise State's second appearance in the College Basketball Invitational. The Broncos played in the CBI in 2009, losing 96-76 to Stanford in the first round.
--Boise State (22-12) has reached 20 wins for just the ninth time since becoming a four-year institution prior to the 1968-69 season.
--The Broncos' eight-game winning streak before the WAC tournament final was the school's longest since the 1991-92 season and tied for the fifth longest in Boise State history.
COACH: Leon Rice, first year at Boise State, first postseason appearance
KEYS TO VICTORY: Boise State wants to play fast and it has a standout point guard to run the show, La'Shard Anderson, who is the team's leading scorer at 15.5 points per game. On defense, the Broncos create havoc with its full-court press and traps. Boise State leads the WAC with 8.8 steals per game and an impressive turnover margin of 5.34 per game.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "To continue playing and get a chance to try to win this CBI Championship and get a chance at a ring, that means a lot to us seniors." -- Senior PG La'Shard Anderson.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
vs. Oregon, March 23, College Basketball Invitational semifinals
SCOUTING REPORT: Boise State is near the nation's top 50 in scoring entering the week. Oregon shot the 3-pointer very well in its first two Pac-10 tournament games, but the real key to the Ducks' success most of this season was their energy level. When they play hard, they are a handful for most teams. Coach Dana Altman shuffles players in and out of the game quickly, allowing them to hit the gas pedal hard then give way to someone else with a full tank. Boise State will play much the same way, so this could be a very fast game played at a high level from whistle to whistle. Boise State's undersized post Daequon Montreal and freshman C Ryan Watkins played big against Evansville, and Boise State will need them to break through against the Duck defense if they want to win on Oregon's unique basketball floor.
--Senior G La'Shard Anderson was selected first-team All-WAC, and he also was chosen to the league's all-defensive team. No other Broncos player was mentioned on the conference postseason awards.
--Freshman G Jeff Elorriaga had 12 points in the first half against Austin Peay-- all coming on 3-pointer -- against Austin Peay in the first round of the CBI. He ended the game with those 12 points, tying a career high.
--Senior F Paul Noonan entered the quarterfinals of the CBI with 1,085 career points, 15th on Boise State's career scoring list.