Checking in on the… WAC

Posted by rtmsf on January 9th, 2009

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

Current Standings

  1. New Mexico State (2-0, 8-7)
  2. Utah State (1-0, 13-1)
  3. Boise State (1-0, 10-3)
  4. Hawai’i (1-1, 9-5)
  5. Idaho (1-1, 7-8 )
  6. Louisiana Tech (1-1, 7-8 )
  7. Nevada (0-1, 7-7)
  8. Fresno State (0-1, 7-8 )
  9. San Jose State (0-2, 6-6)

Player of the Week: No, the WAC has not adopted a bird as the league symbol,  but it did select Jared Quayle (no relation to former VP Dan to our knowledge) of Utah State as the conference Player of the Week. Quayle was the MVP of the 2008 Duel in the Desert after scoring 17 points, grabbing 11 boards and passing out seven assists against Howard and then coming back with a line of 15 points, six rebounds, five assists and two steals against Houston Baptist. Quayle then managed a double-double of 24 points and 10 boards versus Wyoming.

Other candidates: Boise State’s Mark Sanchez, Fresno State’s Paul George, Hawai’i’s Roderick Flemings, New Mexico State’s Wendell McKines.

Opening night in the WAC had the teams away from home enthusiastically whistling “On The Road Again” — that is, until they played their second games with the exception of New Mexico State.

– Boise State: The Broncos kicked off conference play with a 70-58 victory on the road at Hawai’i becoming the fourth team to pick up a road victory on opening night in WAC play. Kurt Cunningham continues to lead the league in field goal percentage at 75.7% shooting from the floor. On Saturday, January 10th, just one week after facing Hawai’i to open conference play, the Broncos host will face Hawai’i again.

– Fresno State: Despite yet another double-double (his fifth so far) from wunderkind frosh Paul George (when is Dick Vitale going to “Diaper Dandy” him?) , the Bulldogs couldn’t overcome a flat first half (40-22 deficit) and 7-for-30 shooting from three-point range for the game losing 79-66 to New Mexico State in their WAC opener. To illustrate Fresno State’s depth situation, only freshman Mychal Ladd played double figure minutes against the Aggies and three of the six players with the most minutes this year for the Bulldog are freshman. George leads Fresno State in both scoring and rebounding at 15.3 and 7.1 per game respectively while shooting 54% overall and 48% from long range. Ah yes, a little child shall lead them…but in this case he’s 6-7. The Bulldogs get another chance at notching their first conference win of the year when last place San Jose State comes to town on Saturday, January 10.

– Hawai’i: A 70-58 home loss to Boise State opened WAC play for Hawai’i as the Broncos laid waste to any “island fever” thinking. Bob Nash’s squad put up 12 more shots than the visitors but Boise still came away with three more baskets than the hosts. Plus, the Rainbow Warriors came into the game as the team with the most free throw attempts in the WAC yet managed just 10 shots from the charity stripe against Boise State. The Rainbow Warriors’ 18  offensive rebounds also went for naught. Then Hawai’i surprisingly took down Louisiana Tech 65-64 Monday evening. The Warriors shot well overall — 28 for 54 — as Bill Amis led them with 17 points and fellow forward Paul Campbell garnered a double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds. Hawai’i  only shot six free throw attempts, making four and still won the game. To be fair, Tech may have been a little road weary seeing as it was their third game in a row away from home but a W is a W for Hawai’i regardless of the circumstances.

– Idaho: The Vandals are the current ‘darlins’ of the WAC because of taking down Nevada 78-73 in Reno — did anyone see that coming? Idaho shot well from all areas, dished out 19 assists on 26 baskets, and rebounded proficiently. Coach Don Verlin’s team shot 52% from the floor and 64% from long range in the game. Mac Hopson continued with his fine play, putting up 16 points and eight assists (versus two turnovers). The Vandals displayed the level of play that, if continued, demonstrated there may be something in those famous potatoes this season as Idaho won both  halves, 35-33 and 43-40. Then it was the master against his protege with Stew Morrill facing his longtime coaching assistant now Vandal mentor Don Verlin. Fans had better start taking Idaho seriously as the Vandals eventually lost 70-61 in Logan but ran offensive and defensive schemes that bothered the Aggies. Kashif Watson led in scoring with 13 points including 9-10 from the foul line. Mac Hopson scored 12 but didn’t shoot well.

– Louisiana Tech: The road weary Bulldogs kicked off league play with a rare road victory knocking off San Jose State 66-61. The Bulldogs weren’t able to keep the wins coming as they followed that up with a last second loss to Hawai’i. The Warriors’ Bill Amis broke the Bulldogs’ hearts with an eight-foot jumper with 8.1 seconds left in the game to give Hawai’ia 65-64 victory. Three very tired Bulldogs are in the top 10 for minutes played with Kyle Gibson averaging 35.79 minutes per game, Jamel Guyton averaging 34 minutes per game, and Justin Graham averaging 32.07 minutes per game. Louisiana Tech finally returns home as they host  Nevada on Saturday, January 10.

– Nevada: Wolf Pack fans, the general public and probably more than a few Vandal-ites circled a Nevada victory in ink last Saturday against visiting Idaho. But there was a run on erasers after Saturday night. The reasons were many but foremost was Nevada making only 6 of 23 shots from three-point land (very un-Nevada like numbers). The Pack did grab 17 offensive boards, winning that battle handily, but didn’t convert that advantage. Armon Johnson’s 2-8 overall shooting and Brandon Fields’1-7 on trey attempts aided the offensive misfiring. Nevada’s next game is a trip to Ruston on Saturday, January 10 to face Louisiana Tech.

– New Mexico State: After starting winless on the road (0-6), the Aggies strung together back-to-back road victories in the opening weekend of conference play. New Mexico State handled Fresno State winning 79-66 in a game where they led by 20 points on a multiple occasions in the second half. The Aggies followed that up with a 75-73 nail-biter at San Jose State that saw the Aggies trail at halftime 39-37, lead most of the second half, lose the lead late in the second half, and then win the game on a pair of free throws by freshman center Hamidu Rahman. The game at San Jose State marked a bit of a homecoming for sophomore forward Wendell McKines as over 30 members of his family and friends were in attendance. McKines did not disappoint as he scored a game high 21 points on 8-15 shooting and grabbed eight rebounds. McKines averaged 19.5 points and 10 rebounds in the two wins. The Aggies return home to Las Cruces to face WAC rivals Nevada and Utah State. The Aggies (USU), Wolfpack and Aggies (NMSU) were picked to finish 1-2-3 in the league by the coaches and media.

– San Jose State: It was too much Kenneth Cooper offensively, Magnum Rolle at the defensive end and a second half helping of Kyle Gibson that did in the host Spartans Saturday night. San Jose only went to the foul line 12 times, making seven while the Bulldogs had 29 free throws attempts and connected on 21. A plus 15 in shot attempts didn’t matter for SJSU as the San Joseans could put down but four treys in 17 attempts. Adrian Oliver’s 18 points again led the way for San Jose State. Then SJSU hosted New Mexico State in a game that could have gone either way but the Aggies prevailed 75-73. C.J. Webster scored 22 points on 10-14 shooting and grabbed nine rebounds but to no avail. Adrian Oliver added 15 but it was an off-shooting night for the Washington transfer. The outside shooting was off again for San Jose State (2-12 on trey attempts). Their next game is a trip to Fresno on Saturday, January 10.

– Utah State: The Aggies and head coach Stew Morrill won the battle of mentor/mentee as they held off Idaho on Monday, January 5, 70-61. Utah State improved to 13-1 overall and 1-0 in league play but one of their biggest tests will come early as they face the longest road trip in the WAC outside of Hawai’i. Utah State heads to Ruston on Thursday, January 8 to take on Louisiana Techand then heads back west to Las Cruces to take on New Mexico State. The Utah Aggies certainly remember the Ruston/Las Cruces swing as last season they defeated Louisiana Tech on a Thursday, sent five players home for disciplinary reasons after the game and then proceeded to get drilled by 30 points in Las Cruces. Utah State’s senior forward Gary Wilkinson was one of 50 players named to the Naismith Trophy watch list. Wilkinson is averaging 17.3 points and 7.8 rebounds per game and is shooting an impressive 64.3% from the field and 81% from the charity stripe. He’s currently the league’s fourth leading scorer and third leading rebounder.

Upcoming Games of Interest

  • Sat., Jan 10 – Nevada at Louisiana Tech – 2:00 p.m. CT
  • Sat., Jan 10 – San Jose State at Fresno State – 7:00 p.m. PT
  • Sat., Jan 10 – Hawai’i at Boise State – 7:00 p.m. PT (Underrated Game of the Week)
  • Sat., Jan 10 – Utah State at New Mexico State – 7:00 p.m. MT (Game of the Week Part)
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