Checking in on the… WAC

Posted by rtmsf on February 12th, 2009

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

Playing for second. The Utah State Aggies can wrap up a share of the regular season WAC title this week with a win over Idaho. And if they are to do it, they’ll have to do it on the road. Utah State is 11-0 in league play and is looking to complete the first undefeated season since TCU turned the trick in the 1997-98 season at 14-0 and then a year later when Utah also completed the feat going 14-0. In both cases the teams were playing in the then (and first) 16 team league and won their division. The race for the league’s 2-seed in the conference tournament is heating up as five teams are within two games of each other with anywhere from five (NM State) to seven (Idaho) league games remaining.

Current Standings:

  1. #17/21 Utah State (11-0, 23-1)
  2. Boise State (6-4, 16-7)
  3. Nevada (6-4, 13-10)
  4. New Mexico State (6-5, 12-12)
  5. Idaho (4-5, 10-12)
  6.  San Jose State (4-7, 12-11)
  7. Hawai’i (4-7, 12-11)
  8. Louisiana Tech (3-8, 9-15)
  9. Fresno State (2-7, 10-14)

Official Player of the Week: For the third time this season, Utah State’s Gary Wilkinson has been named the Western Athletic Conference Men’s Basketball Player of the Week.  Versus New Mexico State, he scored 18 points and nabbed 11 boards. He didn’t miss all night — going 5-5 from the floor and 8-8 at the foul line. Wilkinson then added 16 points against Louisiana Tech.

Other nominees:

  • Boise State junior Ike Okoye
  • Fresno State sophomore Nedeljko Golubovic
  • Hawai’i junior Roderick Flemings
  • Louisiana Tech junior Kyle Gibson
  • New Mexico State sophomore Wendell McKines

BOISE STATE.  After beating San Jose State 89-83 on the road the Broncos briefly held sole second place in the conference standings thanks to New Mexico State’s stunning victory over Nevada in Reno. Unfortunately the Broncos couldn’t stand prosperity and they traveled to Fresno and promptly fell back into a tie with Nevada at 6-4 when they lost to Fresno State 88-82.

Next up: a showdown with #17/21 Utah State in Boise on Saturday, February 14 and hosting rival Idaho on Wednesday, February 18.

FRESNO STATE.  The Bulldogs were neutered at Hawaii to the tune of 69-43 with the game over after Fresno scored but 10 points in the initial half. But the Bullpups then shrugged that defeat off and took down Boise State behind freshman Paul George’s double-double of 29 points and 10 boards. George now has six DD’s to date. Fellow frosh Mychal Ladd and Bryce Cartwright netted 14 points apiece. Junior Sylvester Seay backed up George with 23 points as FSU led 45-29 at the half.

Next up: two road games, at Louisiana Tech and then New Mexico State respectively.

HAWAII.  Just when it seemed the proverbial walls were caving in for Bob Nash, it’s go figure time as his team notched a pair of homecourt victories — actually calling them routs is more accurate. Roderick Flemings’ 14 points and 13 rebounds paved the way in the 69-43 shellacking of Fresno State — it was 34-10 at the half — and point Kareem Nitoto then scored 21 points in the 71-49 laugher — even minus UH injured starting forward Bill Amis — versus Idaho. Hawaii had been struggling from the floor but shot 58% against Don Verlin’s squad after going for 51% against the Bulldogs. Earlier this season in conference play, the Vandals won by 20 over the Rainbow Warriors — another go figure outcome.

Next up: Nevada comes to Honolulu on Saturday

IDAHO.  The wheels came off against Hawaii as nine errant free throws, one three-pointer, 17 turnovers and a -15 deficit in rebounding (33-18) combined to take the Vandals down 71-49. Mac Hopson, Mr. Steady this season, scored just five points in 28 minutes and committed six turnovers.

Next up: Utah State comes to Moscow on Thursday followed by San Jose State on Saturday.

LOUISIANA TECH.  The Bulldogs finally closed out a close game.  La. Tech hung tough with Nevada for the second time this season but this time there would be no miracle buzzer beater by Nevada. The Bulldogs stopped a 12 game winning streak in the series by the Wolf Pack. The Dogs will need some help if they want to stay out of the conference tournament’s 8/9 play-in game however as they’re effectively two games behind 4-7 Hawai’i due to the Warriors’ sweep of the Bulldogs this season.

Next up: hosting Fresno State on Thursday, February 12

NEVADA.  It was a pair of close ones at home but the Wolf Pack found themselves on the wrong end both times, falling to Louisiana Tech 78-75 and then 62-60 versus New Mexico State. The choice of the WAC coaches for pre-season Player of the Year, Armon Johnson, scored 27 against LT while the coach’s pick for Freshman of the Year, Luke Babbitt, notched 23 points. Tech shot 30-50 for the game. Johnson also totaled 16 points and passed for six assists against the Aggies of Las Cruces.

Next up: San Jose State hosts the Pack on Thursday and then it’s on to the islands for Mark Fox’s group for a Saturday battle with Hawaii.

NEW MEXICO STATE.  The Aggies made news on and off the court this past week. The team made the always difficult Logan/Reno road swing and came away with a split. But it was what happened before the split that made the headlines. Freshman point guard Terrance Joyner was arrested at the airport after TSA officials found one and a half marijuana joints in his checked luggage. The Aggies were unable to hand Utah State its first conference loss of the season as they lost 78-59. Then the day before the nationally televised showdown with rival Nevada, news broke that freshman forward Troy Gillenwater had been sent back to Las Cruces and suspended one game for “actions detrimental to the team.” Without Gillenwater, a 12 point per game player, the Aggies banded together as head coach Marvin Menzies went deep into his bench giving walk-on Kelly Merker and Robert Lumpkins longer than usual minutes. Both players contributed but it was sophomore power forward Wendell McKines who stole the game for the Aggies. McKines buried a three pointer from the top of the key with 50 seconds remaining to put NM State ahead 62-60 and the Aggies’ defense held on for the victory.

Next up: hosting Fresno State on Saturday, February 14 and Louisiana Tech on Monday, February 16.

SAN JOSE STATE.  Boise State was more proficient throughout the game and came away with an 89-83 win over the Spartans in San Jose — this despite 37 (23 at the half) points from Adrian Oliver. BSU went 11-22 from long range and shot 57% for the game. SJSU shot 52%.

Next up: hosting Nevada followed by a visit to Moscow.

A piece of trivia for those thinking the WAC will be down for count for a long time: there are just 20 seniors dotting the WAC rosters, eight of whom are starting. There are also six freshman in the starting lineups throughout the WAC.

UTAH STATE.  Different week, same result. The nation’s longest winning streak still resides in Logan, UT. The Aggie train rolled past NM State winning 78-59. The Aggies then scrapped out a win against Louisiana Tech 60-52. Utah State has now won at least 23 games in each of the last 10 years and only Gonzaga and Kansas have a shot at joining Utah State in that feat. Win a win this week over Idaho on Thursday, the Aggies can claim a share of the regular season title for the second consecutive season.

Next up: road games at Idaho and at Boise State

UPCOMING GAMES:

  • Thu., Feb. 12 – Fresno State at Louisiana Tech – 7:00 p.m. CT
  • Thu., Feb. 12 – Utah State at Idaho – 7:00 p.m. PT
  • Thu., Feb. 12 – Nevada at San Jose State – 7:00 p.m. PT
  • Sat., Feb. 14 – San Jose State at Idaho – 7:00 p.m. PT
  • Sat., Feb. 14 – Fresno State at New Mexico State – 7:00 p.m. MT
  • Sat., Feb. 14 – Utah State at Boise State – 7:00 p.m. MT
  • Sat., Feb. 14 – Nevada at Hawai’i – 7:00 p.m. HT
  • Mon., Feb. 16 – Louisiana Tech at New Mexico State – 7:00 p.m.
  • Tue., Feb. 17 – Utah Valley at San Jose State – 7:00 p.m. PT
  • Wed., Feb. 18 – Cal State-Bakersfield – 7:00 p.m. MT
  • Wed., Feb. 18 – Idaho at Boise State – 7:00 p.m. MT
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