Checking In On… the WACPosted by Brian Goodman on December 16th, 2011
The Week That Was
Another mixed bag for the WAC as Nevada posted a win at Montana 70-64, Idaho won at Oregon State 74-60, New Mexico State lost at UTEP 73-69, and Utah State lost at Wichita State 83-76. The WAC is 38-38 overall as the conference is just under three weeks away from starting conference play.
- Nevada (7-3): Don’t look now but the Wolf Pack are on a roll having won four in a row and seven of their last eight. Deonte Burton has led the Pack in scoring in the past three games with outbursts of 31, 28, and 21. The Wolf Pack are making the “winning plays” down the stretch, according to head coach David Carter, and shooting percentages of 44% and 53.6% in the last two second halves attest to that.
- Idaho (6-4): The Vandals are starting to find themselves as well having won three of their last four with the loss coming by just a bucket against Washington State. Deremy Geiger‘s 27 point against Oregon State and Stephen Madison‘s 17 points against Seattle led to a pair of road victories for Idaho. The two wins have seen Idaho shoot 15-of-29 (51.7%) from behind the three-point arc.
- New Mexico State (6-4): The Aggies took to the road for the seventh time this season. Unfortunately as has been the case, the road was not kind to them as they fell behind by 17 points early at rival UTEP before fighting back to take a five-point lead. The Aggies did not make the “winning plays” down the stretch and ended up losing to their rivals 73-69. Their third consecutive loss and fourth in five games. Starting guard Christian Kabongo was suspended indefinitely two days after the game for an unfortunate incident involving some lewd gestures directed toward the hostile crowd. New Mexico State opened a five-game holiday homestand with a 27-point victory over in-state Division II foe Western New Mexico.
- Utah State (4-5): To the delicate and dulcet tones of SheDaisy’s “Brand New Year”: A nine-point 63-54 win in Logan against Southern Utah was followed by a seven-point loss versus host Wichita State. The Shockers out-boarded Utah State 37-25 and also committed seven less fouls. The assist ratio for coach Stew Morrill‘s squad is still up and down, coming in at nine assists on 28 baskets in the WSU contest. A point of light — LDS mission returnee and freshman Danny Berger sparked the Aggies with ten points in 18 minutes of play in the Southern Utah contest and then produced 12 points in 24 minutes against Wichita State. Maybe, just maybe, a point producer on the wing has been discovered. The musical listing above either references the loss of four starters and a building back up of the team or that the Aggies are now ready to move forward. Time will tell. One small side note: Redshirt freshman reserve wing player Steve Thornton has left the team.
- Louisiana Tech (5-5): The Bulldogs have won three of their past four, all three wins coming by a two points or fewer. The Bulldogs are hoisting threes like it’s going out of style with 235 on the season, tied for most in the WAC, but are hitting at the second-worst rate in the WAC, 32.3%. Cordarius Johnson has hosted 58 threes this season converting at 37.9%, slightly above the team’s average.
- Hawaii (3-4): With strains of Elvis Presley’s “All Shook Up” in the background The Rainbow Warriors fell on the road to Pacific 64-54 before returning home and topping UC Davis 74-61. It was a new starting lineup versus Davis that got the ball rolling in Hawaii’s direction as Bobby Miles and Jeremiah Ostrowski (who has moved over from the football team for the second year in a row) started in the backcourt and Zane Johnson, Vander Joaquim, and Shaquille Stokes — all previous starters — came off the bench. Ostrowski racked up eight assists and Hawaii shot 56% for the game. Next up is a quick hop over to Kona to face Hawaii-Hilo.
- Fresno State (3-6): Read this while silently singing “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” as performed by the California Raisins: The remaining two match-ups for the Bulldogs on their Pac-12 swing didn’t prove fruitful. A 71-64 loss to Colorado was followed by a 74-70 defeat at Oregon. Sophomore guard Kevin Olekaibe, the WAC’s top point producer, scored 26 against the Buffaloes but needed an un-efficient 24 shots to reach that total. FSU shot just 36% while allowing Colorado to shoot 51%. Against Oregon, Jonathan Wills led with 20 points while Olekaibe played just 18 minutes due to an injury. The Bulldogs shot a little better (44%) against the Ducks, but allowed Oregon to connect on 56% of their shots. Fresno State is last in the WAC in field goal percentage defense at 46% and wins won’t be appearing with regularity until that number drops dramatically. Next up is a game at home against 6-3 Cal Poly.
- San Jose State (3-7): It has to be Ozzy Osbourne’s “Shot In The Dark” — due to San Jose State University’s shooting woes: The inability to put the ball in the basket did in the Spartans during losses to Cal and then Cal Poly. It was a distressing 81-36 loss in Berkeley, one in which the Bears would have won had they not scored a single point in the second half. SJSU shot 20% for the game. It wasn’t much better shooting — 24% — versus the Mustangs, hence the metaphor for either cranking the ball up with eyes closed or a referencing a power outage on every San Jose State shot. Next up is a December 20 match-up with 1-7 UC Davis — so hope may be on the horizon as the Aggie opponents are shooting 48% on the season.
It’s that time of year when the match-ups aren’t as sexy and the WAC trots out the games against the bottom tier of Division I (and sometimes Division II). Fresno State has the most interesting schedule over the next week as they travel to Boise State and then host Arizona State. Idaho hosts Wright State from the Horizon League.
Spotlight On…The Stat Sheet
- After 10 games, Idaho leads the conference in shooting at 50% — anyone see that coming?
- The Vandals are also holding opponents to 39% shooting — a differential that often leads to the W column.
- One area holding back Hawaii‘s progress is a -4.3 turnover margin.
- When was the last time, if ever, Utah State was last in three-pointers at 4.8 a game?
- Deremy Geiger of Idaho stands at 46% on three-point shooting — up from last season’s 31%.
- The cream is rising — Nevada’s Deonte Burton tops the WAC with a 2.4 assist-to-turnover ratio besides averaging a third-in-the-league 15.7 points per game