Checking In On… the WACPosted by Brian Goodman on February 9th, 2012
It was a topsy-turvy week in the WAC as previously unblemished Nevada was taken down by Idaho 72-68, at home no less, and Utah State‘s road woes continued as they dropped a pair of roadies at Nevada, 53-52 courtesy of the stone-cold killer Deonte Burton‘s game-winning three pointer and then again two days later at Fresno State, 60-54. Hawai’i was pushed to the brink by San Jose State in Spartanville before pulling out a two-point overtime win, 83-81. New Mexico State also got a stiff test from visiting Louisiana Tech, but freshman Daniel Mullings scored eight straight points with the Aggies trailing by one to put New Mexico State on top for good.
Bitter Goodbye: Utah State announced this week that the season-ending knee injury suffered early in the season by senior forward Brady Jardine‘s has turned into a career-ending injury. Jardine was redshirting and hoping to make a comeback in 2012-13. It’s always tough to see a player’s career end prematurely. Brady will always be fondly remembered for his dunk last season at St. Mary’s:
- Nevada (19-4, 8-1): The Wolf Pack dispatched of Utah State to start the week but then had their 16-game unbeaten streak ended by Idaho. After suffering their first conference loss of the season and their second-best in the nation 16-game winning streak ending, the Wolf Pack are looking to get back on the winning side of the ledger but it won’t be easy as they must make the long journey to Honolulu to take on the Warriors. In order to keep their one loss from turning into a losing streak, the Pack must do a better job from the free throw line than they did against Idaho (14-of-25, 56 percent) and from distance (6-of-24, 25 percent). The Wolf Pack got an unusually high 13 point from their bench and with the upcoming road trip, it would be a fine time for the bench to start contributing more points.
- New Mexico State (17-7, 6-2): The Aggies avoided the mayhem that filled the league last week, barely. A game Louisiana Tech team gave the Aggies all they could handle and led late in the second half before a scoring outburst from talented freshman Daniel Mullings gave the Aggies the lead for good. Senior center Hamidu Rahman returned to form against the Bulldogs after a couple of “no show” performances the previous week. Rahman finished with 20 points, four rebounds and a rare pair of assists. The Aggies will embark on a critical conference road trip that could potentially net them a share of first place if the cards all fall in their favor, however, a sweep of the Idaho/Utah State trip is much easier said than done.
- Hawai’i (14-9, 5-3): The Warriors also narrowly avoided the mayhem that was conference play last week and in doing so, kept themselves alive for a shot at the regular season title. UH took down host San Jose State in overtime 83-81 paced by Joston Thomas‘ ample 29 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and pair of blocks. Vander Joaquim added his own 17/10 double-double plus three blocked shots while Zane Johnson contributed 16, bolstered by shooting 5-10 from long distance. The Warriors will host league-leading Nevada, a team they nearly knocked off in Reno earlier in conference play. The Warriors will be without the services of sophomore forward Trevor Wiseman who has been suspended indefinitely by head coach Gib Arnold. Wiseman is averaging just 6.2 points per game this season but has hit 52.3 percent of his shots from the field and is a strong free throw shooter at 77.1 percent. he also has been grabbing 5.5 boards, per game so his production will be missed.
- Idaho (13-11, 5-4): Just call them “Streakbusters.” After ending Utah State’s 17-game winning streak last season, they ended Nevada’s 16-game winning streak this season. We’d be surprised if many other teams in the country can lay claim to ending two lengthy winnings streaks in back-to-back seasons. Unfortunately for the Vandals, the win came on the heels of a stunning loss at Fresno State and the defeat ended their hopes for a regular season title. Idaho will get another chance to knock off a top contender as New Mexico State rolls into Moscow on Thursday night. The Aggies pulled away from the Vandals last in Las Cruces, a game in which Idaho was out-shot from the free throw line by a margin of 32 to 12. There probably won’t be that kind of disparity in the numbers this time, which should give the Vandals great relief.
- Fresno State (9-14, 3-6): We wouldn’t normally rank a 3-6 Fresno State team ahead of a 4-5 Utah State team but seeing as how this is a weekly power ranking, this week we’ll make an exception. The Bulldogs are on a two-game winning streak, acting as ungracious hosts in first taking down two teams situated above them, Idaho 65-55 and then Utah State 60-54. Leading scorer Kevin Olekaibe was held to seven points on a poor shooting night versus the Vandals but fellow backcourter Tyler Johnson led with 17 while Jerry Brown put up a 14/10 double-double and Kevin Foster was just on the edge with 9/8. Versus USU, the score was a (un)remarkable 21-16 in favor of the Bulldogs. FSU carried that lead to the end, winning as Olekaibe was on top with 26 points and Jerry Brown added 14/8. Johnson’s bountiful line was composed of 12 points, five rebounds, five assists and a trio of steals.
- Utah State (12-12, 4-5): There’s trouble in Logan city. A pair of road losses, first to Nevada 53-52 (not unexpected but it hurt that the Aggies had opportunities to win late) and then 60-54 against second-division Fresno State. Sophomore guard Preston Medlin led with 15 markers but nobody truly stood out for USU in the loss to the Wolf Pack, plus a 43-27 rebounding advantage went for naught. Allowing Kevin Olekaibe to go for 26 points was the primary fingerpoint in the Fresno State defeat as Medlin and point guard Brockeith Pane combined for 11 backcourt turnovers as Stew Morrill’s sqaud committed 16 to just three for FSU. Another big edge on the boards, 40-24, went wasted. The UtAgs can right the ship with two home-cookin’ games as Louisiana Tech and the New Mexico State pop up on the schedule and these two, especially the first one, may get the Aggies and the Spectrum-ites feeling less blue.
- Louisiana Tech (11-12, 3-5): The Bulldogs put up a good fight but just couldn’t get past second-place New Mexico State for the second time this season. The Bulldogs put up good numbers, 48.2 percent shooting, hitting eight threes and even hanging tough in the rebounds department with the much larger Aggies but sometimes a team is just better than you and that was the case twice this season. The road trip continues for LA Tech as they face the daunting Utah State/Idaho swing. The Bulldogs lost by a combined six points two the two teams in Ruston earlier this season so there is a glimmer of hope for the Bulldogs that they can split this road trip.
- San Jose State (7-16, 0-8): SJSU and visiting Hawaii were tied at 70 at the end of regulation and the game finished 83-81 in favor of the Rainbow Warriors. Wil Carter enjoyed a 22/12 double-double for the Spartans plus backcourter James Kinney added 21. SJSU had a 16-point second half lead closed out by a 16-0 Rainbow Warrior run. A pair of home games, the first against on-the-ascent Fresno State, the second a match up with league-leading Nevada, come next. The Spartans are winless in league play and three games behind both FSU and Louisiana Tech. If its any consolation, five of the eight losses have been away contests.
The plot thickens. Nevada’s loss to Idaho has re-opened the door on a league race that looked all but over heading into last week. Nevada had a two-game lead over second place with wins on the road at Idaho, Utah State and New Mexico State plus a home win against Hawai’i. However, their loss to has given hope to both New Mexico State and Hawai’i for the regular season title and the top seed in the WAC tournament (and a first round date with San Jose State, barring a huge turnaround by the Spartans).
Nevada heads to Honolulu on Thursday followed by the grueling red-eye flight and short-turnaround for a contest at San Jose State on Saturday. New Mexico State takes its title hopes on the road to Moscow and Logan to take on Idaho and Utah State. LA Tech will face the same two teams but in reverse order while Fresno State takes on San Jose Sate and Hawai’i.
- When you’re last in shooting (39%) and next-to-last in defending the shot (44%), you might be 0-8 a la San Jose State. A key missing for the Spartans is a finisher at the end of close games.
- Utah State fans are not happy campers about the Aggie descent to the middle of the pack but USU’s second in the league field goal percentage defense (41%) and tops in the WAC three-point field goal percentage defense (31%) remain the envy of the other conference coaches
- Which team is going to win the team with the most blocked shots award? Nevada is on top at 4.6 a game with Idaho at 4.2 and Louisiana tech at 4.0.
- New Mexico State’s Wendell McKines is the sole player still averaging a double-double with 18.3 points and 10.5 boards a contest.
- Hawaii center Vander Joaquim is close by with 14.3 points and 9.9 caroms each time out.
- The contest for most made treys is tight as Fresno State’s Kevin Olekaibe leads with 72, Hawaii’s Zane Johnson has 67, Deremy Geiger of Idaho has nailed 66, with SJSU’s James Kinney and Wolf Pack wing Malik Story tied at 65.
- Surprisingly, nobody is nabbing a pair of steals per contest as New Mexico State’s Hernst Laroche is tops at 1.7.
- Regarding minutes played, only Idaho center Kyle Barone and New Mexico State power forward Wendell McKines, sixth and seventh respectively, are non-guards.