This Day In Sports: Farewell to the WAC in men’s hoops

March 23, 2011: Boise State plays its final basketball game as a member of the WAC, falling 79-71 to Oregon at the new Matthew Knight Arena in the semifinals of the College Basketball Invitational. The Broncos went 22-13 in Leon Rice’s first year, earning the school’s ninth 20-win season and recording two home victories in the CBI (over Austin Peay and Evansville). Twelve years later, Rice has compiled a school-record 272 wins against 155 losses.

The feature players on Rice’s first squad were senior holdovers from fired coach Greg Graham: La’Shard Anderson, Robert Arnold and Daequon Montreal. The trio adapted to Rice’s system and were Boise State leading scorers. They were central to the Oregon game, too. The Ducks opened the second half on an 11-2 run against the foul-prone Broncos, and it looked over with 15 minutes left in the game. Montreal and Anderson were each saddled with four personals, and the Ducks led by 20 points.

But playing hard was the hallmark of that Boise State squad, and it got the lead down to six points on a three-point play by Anderson with 1:19 left. Time, however, ran out on the 2010-11 season, which ended with 10 wins in the Broncos’ final 12 games. Included was a 69-63 win over Idaho before 12,193 fans in Taco Bell Arena—the last conference game ever played between the Broncos and Vandals.

In 10 seasons in the WAC, Boise State went 177-142, with eight seasons under Greg Graham bookended by Rod Jensen at the front end and Rice at the back. The Broncos won one conference championship and made an NCAA Tournament appearance in 2008. The Broncos also logged three games in the 2004 NIT and one in the 2009 College Basketball Invitational in addition to the three CBI games in 2011.

Attendance was a big story in that 2010-11 season. It was one of the main reasons Graham was dismissed the previous March. In Graham’s final season, Boise State averaged a Taco Bell Arena record-low 3,061 fans per game. The count was based on turnstiles back then, unlike “tickets distributed” as it is now. But still…3,061. The fan base had checked out (there’s nothing worse than apathy). In Rice’s first season, that number rose to 4,594.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra. He also anchors four sports segments each weekday on 95.3 FM KTIK and one on News/Talk KBOI. His Scott Slant column runs every Wednesday.)

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