EUGENE, Ore. - Boise State's successful 2010-11 campaign under first-year head coach Leon Rice came to an end Wednesday at Matthew Knight Arena, as the Broncos fell 79-71 to Oregon in the semifinals of the College Basketball Invitation presented by Zebra Pen.
The Broncos completed their season with a record of 22-13, tied for the fifth-most in school history. The 22 wins are also seven more than in 2009-10, marking the fifth-largest turnaround in school history.
Senior Robert Arnold scored a team-high 24 points, junior guard Tre Nichols scored 16 - all in the second half - and senior guard La'Shard Anderson added 10.
Boise State used an 11-3 run to claim an early four-point lead (11-7), but Oregon's 3-point shooting surged the Ducks right back in front. Oregon went 8-of-16 (.500) from beyond the arc in the opening half, and the Broncos went through a stretch of nearly eight minutes with just one field goal.
Arnold scored 14 first-half points - he had scored 14-or-more just once in the last nine games - and the Broncos turned a double-digit deficit to just six with just over four minutes remaining until halftime, but Boise State entered intermission trailing by 11 (38-27).
Oregon opened the second half with an 11-2 run, pushing its advantage to 20. But Nichols came off the bench and helped spark the Broncos. Boise State inched the team to within seven (66-59) with four-plus minutes remaining.
The Ducks pushed their lead back to double figures, but the Broncos had another run left in the tank. Boise State cut Oregon's lead to six (74-68) with 1:21 left in regulation, but the Ducks were able to stave off the Bronco charge and hold on for the win.
Arnold's 20-point outing was his fifth of the season, though the first in more than two months (Jan. 13; Utah State).
Of the 54 first-year head coaches throughout the country this season, only 13 have reached 20 wins or more. Of the 13 who have
reached 20 wins, only five are in their first season as a Division I head coach. Of the five in their first year as a Division I head coach,
only Rice inherited a team with a losing record in 2009-10.