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#TuSTATS: Midnight Madness for Leon Rice, the 400 club is growing

Boise State is gearing up for its third game this week on Saturday. Head coach Leon Rice said, "I never sleep after games, so I try to get as much as I can done."
Credit: Boise State Athletics / Tyler McFarland

BOISE, Idaho — I’m a little more tired than usual during the final week of February this year, and I am blaming the Boise State men’s basketball team.

The schedule this week has been unique, causing a bit of a lack of sleep. A rare 7 p.m. Sunday start time against UNLV was followed by a mid-week 8:45 p.m. tip-off against New Mexico.

I’m not complaining by any means by the way. It’s been fun, and if you know me, you know this is what I love to do. I just guarantee I’m not the only person to attend both games who paused for a moment to ponder was it worth staying up so late as the alarm clock goes off early the following morning to get your kid up.

It was though. It totally was.

One of the joys of covering basketball opposed to football, is that days rarely bleed into each other, which means it doesn’t take multiple energy drinks and a trip or two to Starbucks to power through the day after game day.

But Midnight Madness on weeks like this week is a necessity if you want to make it to March Madness, according to head coach Leon Rice:

“I never sleep after games, so I try to get as much as I can done,” Rice told KTVB on Friday. “That one ended about 4:30 a.m., maybe 5 a.m.”

“It takes a while. You don’t just shut it off and [say] ‘night night,’” Rice joked, his smile and laugh attempting to cover up the insanity of the grueling grind and a near 24-hour workday.

“It’s a quick scramble. You don’t want to leave anything out there. You want to feel like everyone has done everything that they can and leave it all out on the table," Rice said.

“This is the best my staff has ever been, because we’ve got the quality and we’ve got a little more quantity,” Rice added. “So, everyone has a little more time to focus on the most important things about their job, and that’s getting ready for this next one.”

Credit: Boise State Athletics / Tyler McFarland


There hasn’t been a more consistent team over the last five years in the Mountain West than San Jose State. The Spartans have finished either last or second to last every season in that span.

Heck, the only blip on the radar they’ve made since joining the league in 2013, was during the 2016-17 season. They climbed all the way up to eighth place that year, their best-ever finish in the Mountain West.

That’s why this year’s Spartans team begs the question: Who are these guys?

At the moment, they’re 16-12 overall, and have clinched their first non-losing season since the 2010-11 campaign. They’ve also posted seven wins in 15 conference games so far, which matches the total amount of victories they had in their previous 74 matchups with Mountain West opponents.

Yes, Leon Rice is 18-1 all-time against San Jose State, but the Spartans played the Broncos tough in Boise earlier this season. It took a last-second three from Big Time Bucket Shave to secure a win, in the closest conference game Boise State has played at home this season.


It was difficult to watch whatever was happening at the free-throw line for Marcus Shaver Jr. in the final minute of Sunday’s game against New Mexico.

A career 79.3% shooter from the line missed not one, not two, not three, four or five, but six free-throws in a row.

Following the fifth consecutive miss, Shaver caught the deflection of the rim, bent over and pounded the ball back into the court in disbelief. It was at that point some of his teammates even smirked, acknowledging the basketball gods were just testing the steady clutch stroke of Big Time Bucket Shave.

Here’s the good news though:

Shaver had made 22 of his 23 previous attempts at the free-throw line. Also, he has more misses in the final 53 seconds of the New Mexico game, than he had in the previous 72 days combined.

So, he’ll be fine.

But as long as we’re highlighting misses, let me remind you of some that Shaver forced. New Mexico’s talented backcourt duo of Jaelen House and Jamal Mashburn Jr. combined to go 6-of-29 from the floor on Wednesday. Shaver was a big part of that effort. Following the game, Rice even suggested it was Shaver’s best defensive performance of the season.


Max Rice has spent the better part of his life watching Boise State basketball. He knows this history of the team inside and out and can effortlessly recall rosters from the past.

The respect for of the program is apparent. But not a single one of those guys he grew up admiring ever had a game like Rice did the other night.

Rice scored a career-high 30 points in the win, 22 of which came in the second half. He also pulled down seven rebounds and had zero turnovers in 38 minutes of action.

Rice attempted a career-high 20 shots, including a career-high 10 threes, and a career-high eight free-throws.

After all was said and done, he became the first player in the Leon Rice Era to post 30+ points, 7+ rebounds and zero turnovers in a single game.


Sophomore forward Tyson Degenhart eclipsed 400 points on the season with his 13-point effort against New Mexico on Wednesday. It’s the 67th 400-point season in program history, and No. 68 isn’t far behind.

Rice is just five points from the milestone. His 395 points this season are more than he scored in his entire Boise State career (380) prior to this season. He is also the team-leader in scoring during Mountain West play.

Most Points in MW Games:

  1. Max Rice – 235
  2. Tyson Degenhart – 231
  3. Marcus Shaver, Jr. – 177
  4. Chibuzo Agbo – 173
  5. Naje Smith – 170
  6. Lukas Milner – 44
  7. Jace Whiting – 40
  8. Pavle Kuzmanovic – 21
  9. Kobe Young – 15
  10. Mohamed Sylla – 7


How cool is this?

The leader in plus-minus for Boise State in each of the last two games have been a play off the bench.

Senior center Lukas Milner was a team-best +21 against UNLV, and freshman guard Jace Whiting was +15 to lead the Broncos against New Mexico.

Boise State has been on a quest to find some sort of stability off the bench for a while now, and it appears they’re finding it at the perfect time.

“The starters aren’t going to be perfect every night,” Rice said. “You need to be able to give them a break. That’s so encouraging when you’re getting a lift from your bench. I felt like that’s what those two certainly did.”

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