Checking In On… the WACPosted by Brian Goodman on December 8th, 2011
The Week That Was
Aside from Nevada‘s wins over Washington and Arizona State, it was a tough week for the WAC. New Mexico State fell to Arizona 83-76 then at Southern Miss 74-66 and Utah State lost to Denver 67-54 ending their 33-game home winning streak in the process then lost at Pacific 65-57 and Louisiana Tech lost to Southeastern Louisiana 72-69 in overtime. The WAC’s wins were against the likes of UTSA (future WAC member), Academy of Art University, UC Davis, UL-Monroe, Utah Valley and Northwestern State… oh and a win against a truly abysmal Utah Utes team by Fresno State.
1. Nevada (6-3): The Wolf Pack notched the WAC’s most impressive victory of the season to date knocking off Washington 76-73 in overtime. Deonte Burton looked very much like a WAC Player of the Year candidate finishing with a stat-sheet-stuffing 31 points on 9-18 shooting, 4-6 from three, 9-14 from the free throw line with six assists and six rebounds. If Burton plays like the rest of the year, the Wolf Pack may very well fulfill the lofty preseason expectations. Since losing their first two games of the season the Wolf Pack have reeled off six wins in their last seven games with the only loss coming against BYU. The reserves contributed just eight points in the OT win over the Huskies. The question still remains for Nevada as to whether their bench can score on nights when the shots aren’t falling for the starters.
2. New Mexico State (5-3): The Aggies have fallen on tough times as of late and their road weariness may have caught up to them. After starting the season out 4-0, the Aggies have dropped three of their last four including a pair to Southern Miss. The Aggies’ early season successes were due in large part to their propensity for sharing the ball (63 assists through four games), rebounding (175 through four games), and getting to the charity stripe (167 attempts through four games). However, the last four games have seen a significant decrease (43 assists, 136 rebounds, 103 free throws attempts– 44 of which came in one game). It should be noted that the Aggies have played at home just twice through their first eight games with trips taking them from Greeley, CO to Anchorage, Alaska to Hattiesburg, MS, but frequent flier miles aside, the Aggies simply haven’t been as effective in those three areas as they had in the first four games and until they get back to dominating those statistics, their struggles may very well continue.
3. Idaho (4-4): The Vandals continue to be steady winning games that they should and not losing games that they shouldn’t. It has accounted for a 4-3 record thus far. Four different players have led them in scoring but it has been the arrival of sophomore forward Stephen Madison that has been the pleasant surprise for the Vandals. Madison is averaging 12.0 points and 4.6 rebounds per game and is 11-24 from three point distance (45.8 percent) and has been a nice complement to Deremy Geiger (14.6 PPG) and Kyle Barone (13.3 PPG, 8.3 RPG) after seeing action in all 32 games last season, but averaging a modest 11.6 minutes while contributing 3.7 points and just 2.0 rebounds per game. One area the Vandals need to seriously improve in is at the charity stripe. They are a dismal 63.2% with only Deremy Geiger shooting it well (80%). Nobody else on the team is better than 68%.
4. Utah State (4-4): A 58-55 loss at Texas A&M Corpus Christi was a shot to the gut (heck, maybe the soul) for many Aggie fans as they had already put that game into the win column. Those 55 points came on 57 shots but just six assists were generated. Then it was up to Idaho State and a match that some were fretting. Was this the year USU does some twisted sort of penance for a spectacular and lengthy run of success or was the performance in the Lone Star State an anomaly? After a 75-62 Utah State victory, forged from 21 assists on 26-45 shooting, qualms generally subsided in Logan. Redshirt sophomore Preston Medlin led the way, totaling 25 points, nailing eight of his 11 long-distance shots. Denver then came into Logan and emerged the 67-54 victor. The Aggies were proficient overall but just not in the number expected, going 2-4 from three-point range. Later, a trip to Stockton, CA to match up with Pacific also turned negative, 65-57. USU shot 20-61 overall including 3-18 from long distance. Tuesday night saw the host Aggies triumph over Utah Valley University 63-54. Next is hitting the road to face Wichita State which recently took apart UNLV 89-70. To make matters worse, Brady Jardine, who was originally determined out 2-4 weeks with a foot injury, now appears to be out for the season.
5. Louisiana Tech (4-4): The young Bulldogs have won two games in a row despite both of those teams figuring out the Bulldogs’ three-point shooting defense, which had been one of the best in the nation early on. Cordarius Johnson (12.5 PPG) and Trevor Gaskins (12.3 PPG) remain the only two Bulldogs in double figures in scoring per game but the team as a whole is still averaging over 70 points per game. Neither Louisiana Tech nor their opponents have been very proficient at the free throw line, the Bulldogs connecting on just 62.9% of their attempts while their opponents are hitting just 64.8%.
6. Fresno State (4-5): A four-point loss to Texas San Antonio followed by a 13-point defeat to North Dakota State had a negative spin swirling about but the Bulldogs followed with a pair of victories. The San Antonio game featured a 26-point (13-13 at the foul line), seven rebound effort by heretofore ‘quiet’ senior Jonathan Willis. Sophomore guard Kevin Olekaibe totaled 18 points but on a very inefficient 6-23 overall shooting. Up in Fargo, Wills contributed a 10/10 double-double but Olekaibe shot just 9-24 on his way to 24 points. Division II Academy of Art Urban Knights (out of San Francisco) was 0-6 this season and an 85-55 Bulldog homecourt victory further extended that streak. Olekaibe scored 25 and sophomore guard Tyler Johnson tallied 16 points. Stumbling at 1-5 this year, with the sole win being against San Diego Christian College, visiting Utah continued on the decline falling to Fresno 85-55. Four Bulldogs scored in double figures with FSU shooting 58% overall while holding the Utes to 35% shooting.
7. San Jose State (3-6): An overtime 83-81 loss to host USF, followed by an 84-58 thrashing by crosstown rival Santa Clara brought Holy Names in next and it was blasphemy time for SJSU to the tune of a 109-71 victory. Then, Montana State arrived and departed with a 77-70 victory despite 24 points from guard James Kinney. Hosting Texas San Antonio was the next game (the Roadrunners won last year 72-63 in Texas) and SJSU came from behind abetted by 30 points from Kinney plus 18 points and 11 assists from super soph Keith Shamburger. A rematch with Weber State (in Ogden this time) produced a 91-89 overtime loss to the best team in Utah this season. Kinney again led the Spartan scoring with 28 points.
8. Hawaii (2-4): Despite four players in double figures, host Hawaii fell 89-72 to Eastern Washington. Minus the final score, the numbers for each team were fairly close minus EWU’s 15 more shot attempts. Then the Rainbow Warriors topped visiting Pacific by five, 75-70. A two-game trip to California began with a surprising 73-67 loss to rebuilding Pepperdine in which team leader Zane Johnson produced just nine points in 36 minutes. The next game is a rematch against Pacific, which took down Utah State 65-57 in its latest effort. In the earlier matchup with the Tigers, Johnson scored 21 points but shot just 4-17 overall. UC Davis hits the islands after the Pacific game. The Aggies just lost their best guard for the season and are struggling right now. It has become evident that a second outside shooter is needed to pair up with senior Johnson so that some territory can be opened up for the inside players of the Rainbow Warriors to maneuver.
The league begins wrapping up its non-conference schedule before hitting the traditional “holiday feast” before conference play starts. Fresno State hosts Oregon, Nevada travels to Montana, Idaho goes to Oregon State, LA Tech is at Southern Miss, New Mexico State heads down the road to El Paso to take on UTEP, and Utah State travels to Wichita to take on Wichita State. It is the last chance for the league to notch some quality wins as a whole.
Spotlight On…The Leaderboards
- Despite the sense of stumbling a bit, Hawaii is tops in best field goal percentage defense at 40% — the Rainbow Warriors are also holding opponents to 29% shooting from long distance.
- Idaho has beefed up its frontline to the tune of 5.7 blocked shots per contest.
- Does anyone recall the last time Utah State was last in the WAC in assists, if ever?
- The Vandals’ Kyle Barone has picked up where he left off last season — shooting 62% from the field but is averaging just eight shots per game.
- Unexpected names in the top percentage shooters: JL Lewis, LA Tech 68%, Bandja Sy, New Mexico State 52%, Stephen Madison, Idaho 50%, Jonathan Wills, Fresno State 50%, Deremy Geiger, Idaho 47%.