Checking in on the… WAC

Posted by rtmsf on December 25th, 2008

Kevin McCarthy of Parsing the WAC and Sam Wasson from bleedCrimson.net are the RTC correspondents for the WAC.

The End of the (Non-Conference) Road. The WAC may have started off slowly in the non-conference schedule but has picked up the pace over the past two weeks. Over a three day span the league went 9-4 against their opponents including victories over two West Coast Conference schools (San Francisco and San Diego) and a pair of Mountain West Conference schools (Utah and TCU). The four losses were to two Pac-10 schools (Cal and Washington State), the Missouri Valley’s Creighton and Conference USA’s UTEP. This upcoming week will see the WAC enter its home stretch of non-conference games before the league begins conference play.

Boise State (8-3).
The Broncos rebounded from back to back losses to improve to 8-3 on the season thanks to a pair of victories on the west coast. Boise State defeated Cal State-Bakersfield 66-62 on Saturday, December 20, and then picked up a solid road victory over the West Coast Conference’s San Diego 75-72 just two nights later.  Boise State is off until after Christmas when they’ll close out their non-conference portion of their schedule when they host Eastern Washington on Monday, December 29.

Fresno State (6-6). The Bulldog faithful were rewarded with two homecourt victories before falling to Creighton 84-65. Fresno State topped Northern Colorado (NC) 70-65 and leveled South Carolina Upstate 72-47. Senior Dwight O’Neil’s 18 points led the way in the win over NC and he was aided by freshman Paul George’s near double-double of 13 points and nine boards. George did attain his double-double — 18 points and 10 rebounds — in the rout over the visitors from South Carolina. Freshman point Bryce Cartwright sprained his ankle early on in the loss to Creighton — a factor that thoroughly hampered the Dogs. George continued to display production beyond his years with 21 points against the Blue Jays.  Conference play hasn’t started as yet but George is going to get either a first or second team nod if he continues with his solid production. He is tops in the WAC in three-point shooting percentage at .521 (25-48) and second in steals. As a team, Fresno State leads the league in three-pointers made per game with 7.73.  Next for the Dogs is St. Louis tonight and then Cal Poly on the road December 29.

Idaho (6-6). A solid but expected 67-46 home success against Texas Southern was followed by a 55-41 loss to cross border rival Washington State. The victory against the winless visitors from the Lone Star State — now 0-11 — was the fifth in a row at home for the Vandals. Mac Hopson contributed 13 points, eight assists and six rebounds. Then border rival Washington State came to town and Hopson notwithstanding — 10 points, six assists, six boards and zero turnovers — Idaho fell and the streak ended. The most telling stat: but one Vandal basket was scored in the last 11 minutes of the second half.  Next is a rivalry game at Idaho State December 29.

Hawaii (6-3). The Rainbow Warriors, with a five-game winning streak, were hitting the books and taking finals this past week, having no games on the schedule. A contest with visiting UC Riverside (7-2) of the Big West Conference is on tap for Tuesday evening. The Highlanders surprisingly beat Hawaii last season 79-62 in Riverside. One major key to watch for: can Bob Nash’s squad continue its run of low double-digit turnovers?  Hawaii is +9 per game in rebounding, second in the WAC and first in offensive rebounding but a -4 a contest in turnovers, last in the conference. Roderick Flemings continues to lead the league in scoring at 19.5 points a game.

Lousiana Tech (6-6). The Bulldogs fell on the road at Samford 71-58 on Thursday, December 18. Louisiana Tech led 28-26 at the break but were done in by Samford’s lights out shooting in the second half. The Samford Bulldogs shot 70.6% from the field (12-17), .85.7% from from behind the three point arc (6-7) and 93.8% from the charity stripe. Louisiana Tech shot just 1-8 from behind the three point arc in the second half and for the game were just 3-15.  Louisiana Tech bounced back from that loss as they hosted the Mountain West’s TCU Horned Frogs. The Bulldogs picked up a 72-67 victory. The Bulldogs got 23 points from Kyle Gibson who was a perfect 7-7 from the field. Gibson also grabbed six rebounds.  The Bulldogs close out their non-conference schedule with a trip to Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles as they take on UCLA on Sunday, December 28.

Nevada (6-5). After taking down Arkansas Pine Bluff (APB) 87-58, the Wolf Pack crossed over into California for a match with Cal. Nevada was game but fell 75-66. Junior Brandon Fields finally made a scoring impact this season with 21 points against APB even though he missed each of his three trey attempts. He also led Nevada with eight boards. In Berkeley, sophomore backcourter Armon Johnson exploded for 33 points — an amazing 13 in the final 2:26 of the game — but it wasn’t enough to top Cal. Fields added 10 points but again missed his trio of treys.  Johnson was honored as the WAC Player of the Week after averaging 25.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 4.0 assists in the games this past week. The most telling Nevada team stat is the un-Wolf Pack-like .283% shooting rate from three-point range.  Next is Idaho State in Reno on December 27.

New Mexico State (5-6)
. After defeating Prairie View A&M 88-74 on Wednesday, December 17, they dropped a pair of rivalry games on the road. On Saturday, December 20 they took the short trip from Las Cruces, N.M. to El Paso, TX to take on the UTEP Miners. The Aggies fell 84-69 as “Aggie Killer” Stefon Jackson poured in 33 points, his third 30 plus point effort against NMSU in his career, the most of any UTEP player in the history of the 94-year old rivalry.  Just three days later the Aggies took on their in-state rival New Mexico at the famed venue The Pit in Albuquerque, N.M. The Pit is most famous for the 1983 miracle shot by North Carolina State that gave the Wolfpack their stunning 54-52 upset over the Houston Cougars.  The Aggies had lost five straight games in the 101 year old series on the road and on Tuesday, December 23 they added a sixth straight loss to that record as they fell 76-62. With the loss the Aggies remained winless on the road this season at 0-6 and as has been the case all throughout the non-conference season for the Aggies, they were out rebounded by 16 boards (41-25).  The Aggies continue their non-conference slate on Sunday, December 28 when they host winless Loyola Marymount. Then two nights later they’ll get their chance at revenge when the host rival New Mexico in the return game of the annual home-and-home series. The game against New Mexico will end the non-conference season for the Aggies.

San Jose State (5-3).
Call it the ‘unveiling’ or maybe the prodigal son (of sorts) returning. Washington transfer Adrian Oliver, ex-of Modesto Christian High, was freed from his NCAA-induced shackles and led the way in a Spartan 89-78 victory over visiting Northern Colorado. Oliver scored 27 points on 11-18 shooting. Tim Pierce, the second-leading scorer in the WAC, added 26, going 6-10 from long distance. Justin Graham totaled 13 assists.  Oliver then topped that total, scoring 31 (9-17 overall, 10-13 at the foul line), in a home win against San Francisco.  Pierce now holds the school record for three-pointers with 129 in 67 games to date. The Spartan team is tops in the WAC in scoring defense at 56.9 points per game, plus field goal percentage and three point field goal percentage defense at .376 and .276 respectively, as well as in steals with 8.43 a game.  Next is a road game versus St. Mary’s as part of the Shamrock Classic.

Utah State (9-1). The Aggies played a trio of games over the course of the week as they traveled to Cedar City, UT to take on Southern Utah on Wednesday, December 17. They left Cedar City victorious with a 72-65 victory. Then on Saturday, December 20 they were on the road again, this time in Pocatello, ID to take on the Idaho State Bengals. The Aggies were again victorious as they dropped the Bengals 67-57. Then on Monday, December 22 the Aggies hosted in-state rival Utah in the teams’ 221st meeting. The Aggies defeated the Utes 66-64 on a tip-in with 0.1 seconds left by Tai Wesley. Utah State continued their dominance at home in the series recording their sixth straight victory at home over Utah and their seventh victory overall against the Utes in the last 11 meetings.  The Aggies will close out their non-conference schedule with a three day tournament at home as they host Howard, Houston Baptist and Wyoming in a three day stretch beginning Monday, December 29.

Upcoming Games of Interest:

  • Sat., Dec. 27 – Colorado State at Hawai’i (Honolulu, HI) – 7:30 p.m. HT.
  • Sat., Dec. 27 – San Jose State at St. Mary’s (Moraga, CA) – 7:30 p.m. PT
  • Sun., Dec. 28 – Louisiana Tech at UCLA (Los Angeles, CA) – 2:00 p.m. PT
  • Tues., Dec. 30 – New Mexico at NMSU (Las Cruces, N.M.) – 7:00 p.m. MT
  • Wed., Dec 31 – North Carolina at Nevada (Reno, NV) – 7:00 p.m. MT

Current Standings:

  1. Utah State (9-1)
  2. Boise State (8-3)
  3. Hawaii (6-3)
  4. San Jose State (5-3)
  5. Nevada (6-5)
  6. Idaho (6-6)
  7. Louisiana Tech (6-6)
  8. Fresno State (6-7)
  9. New Mexico State (5-6)
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