More Notes From the Mountain West and WAC Tourneys

Posted by rtmsf on March 13th, 2010

In our attempt to bring you the most comprehensive Championship Week coverage anywhere, RTC is covering several of the conference tournaments from the sites. We have RTC correspondents Andrew Murawa at the Mountain West Tournament and Kraig Williams at the WAC Tournament this weekend.  In addition to live-blogging select games throughout the tournament, they will both post a nightly diary with thoughts on each day’s action. Here are the submissions for last night’s semifinals.

Mountain West Semis

  • The difference between these four teams when they are playing at their peak is not a whole lot. New Mexico and BYU have been more consistent over the course of the season, but all four of these teams are highly talented and very evenly matched.
  • Even before tonight I felt pretty fortunate to have picked the MWC out of the hat to cover this year. After tonight, the MWC could start a new religion and I would be the first convert.
  • I overheard Danny Ainge talking with Steve Lappas during the break between games say that this iteration of this tournament was as good as any in the country over the last few years. At this point, I’m not inclined to disagree.

San Diego State 72, New Mexico 69.

  • Darington Hobson was the MWC Player of the Year, but San Diego State took some advantage of him defensively, especially in the first half when he was unable to control either Kawhi Leonard or Billy White. Further, in the postgame press conference, Aztec point guard D.J. Gay seemed to imply that they were more concerned about Dairese Gary than they were about Hobson, saying that they in the last sequence they were trying to force Gary to give the ball up to Hobson.
  • Speaking of Gary, when the Lobos found themselves down 11 early, it was he who sparked the team’s run back to eventually take the lead in the first half. But as important as Gary is to the Lobos hopes, it is the combination of Gary and Hobson, each of whom have point skills, that make the Lobos so tough.
  • Kawhi Leonard was the MWC Freshman of the Year, a first-team All-MWC selection and my choice as the MWC Defensive Player of the Year, and yet he is only beginning to scratch the surface of his talent. Tonight he added three threes (after shooting just 19% from three on the season), took on Hobson one-on-one defensively, and yanked down 12 rebounds, including a serious man’s rebound in the final seconds, just before knocking down two free throws to extend the final margin.
  • It was apparent in the postgame press conference just how much coach Steve Fisher loves his squad. At times it seemed like he almost had to control himself from gushing over his squad. Check this: “I told our team at halftime, this is big-time, high-level major college basketball. We played about as well as we can play and we’re one point behind. That’s what they’re telling their team, that San Diego State can’t play better. But we can. We have to. And we did.” And, on D.J. Gay: “I said to our team and the media that I thought D.J. Gay was our most important player. He had seven assists, no turnovers. Guards like crazy. Helps everybody else out and wins.” On Billy White: “He’s a really talented player and a terrific young guy. So I’m proud. I’m so happy for Billy today to have him come home and play as well as he did. He was sensational. When we went out before the game, I grabbed him and told him ‘Make your mom proud.’ Afterward I said, ‘You made everyone proud.’”
  • San Diego State’s freshman guard Chase Tapley and New Mexico’s sophomore post A.J. Hardeman may not get all the press that some of their teammates get, but both had key contributions. Hardeman wound up with 12 points, nine rebounds and three blocks, while Tapley, playing with a broken left hand which has cost him his starting position, knocked down three of his four attempts from three-point range.

UNLV 70, BYU 66.

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RTC Live: WAC Semis – Utah St vs. La Tech & Nevada vs. NMSU

Posted by rtmsf on March 12th, 2010

Day 1 of the WAC tournament eliminated all the pretenders and now we are left with just the top four teams in the league battling it out.  The first matchup will feature the number one seed Utah State Aggies taking on the number four seed Louisiana Tech Bulldogs.  The Aggies have played the part of the steamroller lately, and after dispatching Boise State yesterday 84-60 have now run their winning streak up to 16 straight games.  Despite the blowout score, Boise State tested the Aggies, forcing an uncharacteristically high 15 turnovers with a full court pressure defense.  Louisiana Tech will likely try to exploit this by pressuring the Aggies as well, probably using the same 1-3-1 zone we saw in a previous RTC Live that features 6’11 Magnum Rolle at the top of the key trapping Utah State’s much smaller guard line.  The key for the Bulldogs will be generating offense.  Kyle Gibson still does not look like his old self, scoring just seven points yesterday, but backcourt mate Jamel Guyton scored 31 to lead the Bulldogs over Fresno State 74-66.  If the Bulldogs can get that kind of offensive explosion again it should be a great game to decide who moves onto the championship game tomorrow.

In the night cap in the WAC tournament the homestanding Nevada Wolfpack will take on the New Mexico State Aggies.  Neither team had any trouble in the opening round here in Reno as Nevada blasted Idaho 87-71 and New Mexico State had no problems with San Jose State winning 90-69.  These two teams met just a week ago here in Reno and the Wolfpack won in a shootout 100-92, led by Brandon Fields ‘career high 32 points.  If Nevada is getting scoring in bunches from players besides Luke Babbitt and Armon Johnson then it’s going to be a long night for New Mexico State.  The Aggies need to get some big numbers out of guards Jahmar Young and Jonathan Gibson, and find someone to slow down Luke Babbitt.  Expect another high scoring, and fast-paced matchup between these two, with the winner moving on to face Louisiana Tech/Utah State for the championship tomorrow night. The game is on ESPN2 so tune and follow along with us on RTC Live.

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Some Notes from the Mountain West & WAC Tourneys

Posted by rtmsf on March 12th, 2010

In our attempt to bring you the most comprehensive Championship Week coverage anywhere, RTC is covering several of the conference tournaments from the sites. We have RTC correspondents Andrew Murawa at the Mountain West Tournament and Kraig Williams at the WAC Tournament this weekend.  In addition to live-blogging select games throughout the tournament, they will both post a nightly diary with thoughts on each day’s action. Here are the submissions for last night’s games.

Mountain West Tournament Quarters

  • After a long day and a drive from Los Angeles, I got into the Thomas & Mack Center to see TCU down only four to BYU just about halfway through the second half. Just a couple of minutes later, the Cougars had extended the lead to double figures and the only intrigue left was how much Jimmer Fredette would score. TCU threw everything they had at him, including sophomore point guard Ronnie Moss just wrapping his arms around Fredette’s waist at times, but it was no use. Fredette did it every way: deep threes, pull-up jumpers, taking it to the hole and, of course, hitting 23 of his whopping 24 free throw attempts on his way to 45 points (a MWC Tournament record), including 30 in the second half. And, if that weren’t enough, he added six assists as well.
  • Inside of a minute into the UNLV/Utah game, it was obvious it was going to be a physical game. Both teams tried to exploit the other teams inside, and Utah did so to the tune of 36 free throw attempts (of which they made 31). But if the Utes weren’t getting to the line, they were building a chimney; they made just 13 of their 40 field goal attempts, mostly because UNLV defenders were in their faces constantly.
  • It’s been said before I’m sure, so you won’t mind if I say it again: UNLV getting to play this tournament on their home court every year is a huge advantage. While there were pockets of Utah fans, this was little different than a UNLV home game.
  • After the Utes got three unanswered threes (by Marshall Henderson, Luka Drca and Chris Hines) wrapped around a David Foster rejection to cut what was a 13-point Rebel lead to just four at the half, the start of the second half was electric in the arena. But an early 12-3 run by the Rebels broke things back open and the rest of the half was the Runnin’ Rebels living up to their nickname.

WAC Tournament Quarters

(1) Utah State 84, (8) Boise State 60

  • If Utah State has a weakness it’s against pressure defenses. Boise State was able to hang in the game at halftime trailing by just five by turning the Aggies over and getting easy baskets in transition.
  • If you’ve followed WAC basketball at all this season you may wonder why Utah State’s Brian Green hits his elbow and points to the sky after every game. The answer? “These are my guns, I just reload them.” Green unloaded for 18 against Boise State, which was tied for the game high with both Tai Wesley and Pooh Williams.
  • Boise State fans don’t really like Greg Graham. Will he be joining Hawaii’s Bobby Nash in the WAC coaches unemployment line?

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RTC Live: WAC Qtrs – Fresno State vs. Louisiana Tech

Posted by rtmsf on March 11th, 2010

The Western Athletic Conference begins its postseason tournament here in The Biggest Little City in the World. The feature game of the afternoon pod is the #4-#5 seed matchup as Louisiana Tech takes on Fresno State to decide which set of Bulldogs will reign supreme in the WAC this season. Louisiana Tech sputtered out to end the season winning just one of its last five conference games, and they just weren’t the same without All-WAC second teamer Kyle Gibson down the stretch run. Gibson averaged 19 points a game for Tech and could have easily been a first team performer had he not missed several games, but he promises to be back for the stretch tourney run. The Fresno State Bulldogs have been the hardest team in the WAC to figure out. Steve Cleveland’s team has some of the best talent in the WAC in the form of future NBA players Paul George, Greg Smith and Sylvester Seay, but the west coast Bulldogs have a hard time putting it all together. Still they have scored some huge upsets in conference play, beating New Mexico State, Nevada and most recently Louisiana Tech just last Thursday. Will Gibson’s return be enough to get Louisiana Tech back on track and into the second round or will Fresno’s NBA talent finally gel and lead them to the semis? Find out whose NCAA dream will last at least one more day with us on RTC Live.

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WAC Tournament Preview

Posted by rtmsf on March 11th, 2010

Sam Wasson of bleedCRIMSON.net and Travis Mason-Bushman of Vandal Nation are the RTC correspondents for the Western Athletic Conference.

It’s finally here, do or die time. The WAC tournament will begin on Thursday, March 11, for the eight teams who earned their way in. All eight teams feel like they have a shot to win the whole enchilada but in reality there are probably only five teams that have a chance. History is also not on four teams’ side as only once has a team seeded lower than #4 won the conference tournament as #5-seed Hawai’i pulled off the feat in the 2001 WAC Tournament. Utah State is the favorite as they ran roughshod over the WAC for a second straight season. Nevada is also a favorite but their lack of depth and need to win three games in four days will be something to keep an eye on. New Mexico State is the league’s second highest scoring team and perhaps most physically talented team, however, they are also the league’s worst scoring defense having given up at least 80 points in seven of their 16 conference games. Louisiana Tech was strong in the first half of the season but faltered down the stretch. They could get hot and run the table as well as they have wins over every WAC team except New Mexico State (whom they would not potentially face until the championship game). San Jose State is the darkhorse in the equation. They boast the league’s leading scorer in Adrian Oliver and they have the pieces in place to make a run. However, they too have fallen on tough times losing three of the final four conference games. Unfortunately for them their path to the title game goes through New Mexico State and potentially top seeded Utah State and that’s even before playing in the title game.

There is one team missing from the conference tournament and that is the University of Hawai’i. Not only did Hawai’i not play its way into the WAC tournament last week losing twice on the road, they played their coach out of a job. The University of Hawai’i announced on Monday that head coach Bob Nash would not be returning next season. The Warriors have fallen on tough times since winning the conference tournament in back-to-back seasons to start the new century. The Warriors won in 2001 and again in 2002 earning the automatic bid and then were NIT bound in 2003 and 2004 but have gone 85-93 in their past five seasons combined after amassing an 85-45 record from the 2000-01 season through the 2003-04 season.

Final Standings (conference tournament seeding order)

  1. Utah State, 25-6 (14-2)
  2. Nevada 19-11 (11-5)
  3. New Mexico State, 19-11 (11-5)
  4. Louisiana Tech, 22-9 (9-7)
  5. Fresno State, 15-17 (6-10)
  6. San Jose State 14-16 (6-10)
  7. Idaho, 15-15 (6-10)
  8. Boise State, 15-16 (5-11)

OUT) Hawai’i, 10-18 (3-13)

All-WAC Honors

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RTC Live: Louisiana Tech @ Utah State

Posted by rtmsf on February 17th, 2010

If you’ve been following the WAC all season then you know this is the game we have been waiting for. Louisiana Tech came into the conference season with just two losses against a pretty weak schedule and there were questions about just how good they were. They answered those questions with an opening weekend sweep of the old guard in the WAC, beating Nevada by six and then smoking Utah State by 22. Since then, the Bulldogs have slowed down a little, but still come into tonight’s rematch in third place in the WAC, sporting an 8-3 conference record. Meanwhile the USU Aggies came out of that weekend with their tails tucked between their legs, getting edged by New Mexico State followed by the aforementioned beatdown from Louisiana Tech. Since that January 4 matchup, however, the Aggies have yet to lose, running off ten straight victories with eight of them coming by double digits. The key to the earlier meeting in Ruston was Louisiana Tech’s defense. The Aggies shot a miserable 3-13 behind the arc, something they usually excel at (currentl second in the nation in 3pt% at 43% and an even better 46% in WAC play). For the Aggies the key will be getting good inside play, especially from leader Tai Wesley going against the WAC’s best defensive big man in Magnum Rolle, and they will need to keep shooting well from behind the arc to take the pressure off the big guys (look for Brian Green shooting a blistering 71% from deep in conference games). The Bulldogs will need Rolle to control the boards and get someone besides Kyle Gibson (averaging 21 pts a game) and Rolle (just under 15 pts a game) to contribute to the scoring load (Jamel Guyton had 17 in the first matchup between these two). A win for the Bulldogs would put them right back into the thick of things for the conference title, but a loss would all but eliminate them from the race. Can the Bulldogs pull the upset in front of 10,270 screaming Aggie fans? Stay up late and tune into ESPN2 tonight at 9 pm (MST) and follow along to find out. 

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Breaking Down the Bracketbusters…

Posted by rtmsf on February 2nd, 2010

Special to RushTheCourt.  Ryan Restivo of the MAAC-based SienaSaintsBlog is the RTC correspondent for the Colonial Athletic Association. SienaSaintsBlog now features exclusive video!

The BracketBuster matchups are out, and as promised, RTC is here with some analysis of some of the top games!  Five Colonial Athletic Association teams lead the pack into these February weekend matchups. The Western Athletic Conference drew four bids and the Missouri Valley drew three.  One problem with the BracketBusters? Five of the television games will be on ESPNU, which of course means they’re not available on ESPN360.  However I’d say there are five games where you must, to quote another piece here, “quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live.”

Friday 2/19  (RPI)

Old Dominion (#46) @ Northern Iowa (#17)  – 7 pm on ESPN2/ESPN360

Get to Know Gerald Lee

The Monarchs will travel to Cedar Rapids to play where the Panthers have won every home game by an average of 14 points per game entering this week. 6’8 UNI senior Adam Koch is a tough-to-contain inside presence, scoring a team high 12.7 points per game. 6’10 ODU senior Gerald Lee will likely be assigned to the task of guarding Koch, an he has been a beast this year for the Monarchs, shooting 53% from the field and leading the team with 14.3 points per game. The matchup to watch in this game will be to see if Old Dominion can defend Koch on the inside while keeping their shooters, junior Kwadzo Ahelegbe (11.1 ppg) and Senior Ali Farokhmanesh (team high 42 3-pointers made), at bay. Both teams are first in their respective conferences in FG percentage defense at eerily similar numbers: Old Dominion’s 39.5% FG-defense is 21st while Northern Iowa’s 39.9% ranks 37th nationally. The Monarchs have had some defensive trouble lately, trying zones at Northeastern on Saturday when facing a team with similar size and offensive weapons as the Panthers, to give up a season high 59.5% field goal percentage. 

Saturday 2/20 (RPI)

Siena (#44) @ Butler (#19) – 11 am on ESPN2/ESPN360

The owner of the nation’s longest winning streak, Siena at thirteen straight, will go into an extremely tough environment at Butler in Saturday’s first Bracketbuster game. The Saints are led by 6’5 senior Edwin Ubiles and his 15.8 points per game as he makes his case for MAAC Player of the Year despite some lingering shoulder issues. Alex Franklin plays bigger than his 6’5 frame to lead the Saints down low with 16.1 points per game. On the other side, Butler’s Gordon Hayward has been a beast for the Bulldogs this year, scoring 16.1 points per game and tying a season-high 25 in Sunday’s comeback win over UW-Milwaukee. Hayward, a sophomore, is already attracting the attention of NBA scouts. Fellow sophomore Shelvin Mack has scored 15 points per game and Matt Howard, when not in foul trouble, scores 11 points per game. Howard has been tough to defend inside, going off for 23 points in Butler’s nine-point loss to Minnesota, but has had issues with foul trouble, getting disqualified in three of the Bulldogs’ four losses. It will be interesting to see how Siena defends Hayward and Howard and how this veteran Saints team led by seniors Ubiles, Franklin and Ronald Moore can contain this explosive offense on the road.

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Checking in on… the WAC

Posted by jstevrtc on January 29th, 2010

Sam Wasson of bleedCRIMSON.net and Travis Mason-Bushman of Vandal Nation are the RTC correspondents for the Western Athletic Conference.

At the halfway point of the conference race, Louisiana Tech continues to lead, posting a 6-1 record. A showdown between Louisiana Tech and New Mexico State looms large on Saturday. A victory by the Aggies could thrust the league into a three-way tie for first if Utah State is able to defeat a suddenly surging San Jose State squad. Utah State remains hot as they’ve gone from last place after the first weekend to a tie for second place at the midway point. Meanwhile the race to stay out of the WAC basement is currently a three-team battle between Boise State, Idaho and Hawai’i. The Broncos are currently the odd team out but notched an important victory over in-state rival Idaho earlier in the week in the first of two meetings between the schools.

Current Standings:

1) Louisiana Tech, 18-3 (6-1)

T2) New Mexico State, 12-8 (5-2)

T2) Utah State, 14-6 (5-2)

4) San Jose State 12-8 (5-3)

5) Nevada 12-8 (4-3)

6) Fresno State, 11-11 (4-4)

T7) Idaho, 9-10 (2-6)

T7) Hawai’i, 9-12 (2-6)

9) Boise State, 10-11 (1-7)

At the midway point there are several excellent candidates for Midseason Player of the Year. Instead of choosing a midseason POY and angering eight other fanbases in the process, we instead submit the Top 10 scorers and rebounders in the league (conference games only). Surprisingly, Utah State, tied for second place and certainly the league’s hottest team, has no player in the Top 10 in either scoring or rebounding.

Leading Scorers (Conference Games Only):

1. Adrian Oliver, SJSU – 25.1 PPG

2. Luke Babbitt, NEV – 24.7 PPG

3. Jahmar Young, NMSU – 22.9 PPG

4. Kyle Gibson, LT – 21.6 PPG

5. Jonathan Gibson, NMSU – 19.9 PPG

6. Paul George, FS – 17.7 PPG* (Injured, expected to be out 2-3 weeks)

7. Mac Hopson, ID – 17.5 PPG

8. Sylvester Seay, FS – 15.9 PPG

9. Magnum Rolle, LT – 15.4 PPG

10. Brandon Fields, NEV – 15.3 PPG

Leading Rebounders (Conference Games Only):

1. Luke Babbitt, NEV – 10.7 RPG

2. Magnum Rolle, LT – 10.3 RPG

3. Wendell McKines, NMSU – 10.0 RPG

4. Chris Oakes, SJSU – 9.4 RPG

5. Ike Okoye, BSU – 8.8 RPG

6. Hamidu Rahman, NMSU – 8.3 RPG

7. Dario Hunt, NEV – 7.3 RPG

8. Brandon Adams, UH – 7.0 RPG TIED WITH Olu Asaolu, LTU – 7.0 RPG

9. Greg Smith, FS – 6.9 RPG

Team Breakdowns:

Boise State (10-11, 1-7)

The week’s results: 01/25 W @ Idaho, 77-67 (OT)

Upcoming games: 01/30 vs. Fresno State

The Broncos finally notched a conference win, and it was a big one. Boise State traveled to Moscow, ID to face their in-state rival Idaho and the Broncos stunned the home team. Anthony Thomas hit a contested three pointer as time expired to send the game to overtime where they dominated the extra period. Boise State’s win saw them rally from a nine point second half deficit, and the win keeps the Broncos just one game behind Hawai’i and Idaho as they try to avoid missing the conference tournament. Up next for the Broncos is a game against an up and down Fresno State squad who is playing without their leading scorer, Paul George.

Fresno State (11-11, 4-4)

The week’s results: 01/23 W vs. Nevada, 87-77; 01/28 L @ Idaho, 74-59

Upcoming games: 01-30 @ Boise State

The Bulldogs split a pair of games this week, but it was not what anyone expected. The Bulldogs lost their leading scorer, Paul George, last week in the first half against Utah State and were soundly beaten by the Aggies. Just two nights later, the Bulldogs hosted Nevada in what was sure to be another sound beating. However, the Bulldogs rose up and stunned the visiting Wolf Pack, 87-77, behind a big night from Greg Smith (25 points, 11 rebounds, 5 assists). Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, they came crashing back down to earth when they traveled to Idaho. The Bulldogs were beaten badly by the Vandals, losing 74-59. The Bulldogs trailed by just two at halftime a 6-0 run by the Vandals to start the half put the Bulldogs in a hole of which they couldn’t dig out. Up next for the Bulldogs is a trip to Boise, ID to face the Broncos.

Hawaii (9-12, 2-6)

The week’s results: 01/24 L vs Louisiana Tech, 65-60; 01/28 L @ San Jose State, 83-60

Upcoming games: 01/30 @ Nevada

The Warriors have lost three in a row and now sit tied with Idaho in seventh place in the league. The Warriors hung tough with league leader Louisiana Tech in a home game, falling 65-60. The Warriors were down just two with 34 seconds to play but could get no closer. A rematch against San Jose State gave the Warriors their third straight loss after beating San Jose State 66-65 in overtime in Honolulu. The Warriors led just once at 7-6, but could not stop the Spartans. Things don’t get any easier for the Warriors as they travel to Reno to take on Nevada.

Idaho (9-10, 2-7)

The week’s results: 01/23 L vs. Utah State, 60-48; 01/25 L vs. Boise State, 77-67 (OT); 01/28 W vs. Fresno State, 74-59

Upcoming games: 01/30 @ Seattle; 02/03 @ Utah State

The Vandals snapped a six game losing streak with a victory over shorthanded Fresno State, winning handily, 74-59. The victory helped erase the pain of giving up a nine point lead late in the game against in-state rival Boise State and a hard fought 60-48 loss to Utah State. The Vandals’ victory over Fresno State was an important win in the league race as they moved into a tie with Hawai’i for 7th place in the league and strengthened their hopes of making the conference tournament. Idaho steps out of conference play with a game at Seattle before heading back to Logan, UT to face the USU Aggies.

Louisiana Tech (18-3, 6-1)

The week’s results: 01/24 W @ Hawai’i, 65-60

Upcoming games: 01/30 vs. New Mexico State; 02/04 vs. San Jose State

The Bulldogs continue to lead the WAC race as they picked up a victory over Hawai’i, 65-60. Magnum Rolle scored 23 points and grabbed a career-high 17 rebounds. Kyle Gibson scored 19 points and Jamel Guyton recorded his first career double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds. The Bulldogs host the New Mexico State Aggies as they attempt to stay in solo first place in the league standings. Following their date with the Aggies, the suddenly hot San Jose State Spartans come to town.

Nevada (12-8, 4-3)

The week’s results: 01/23 L @ Fresno State, 87-77

Upcoming games: 01/30 vs. Hawai’i

The Wolf Pack were stunned by a short-handed Fresno State squad and they missed a golden opportunity to move into a tie for second place with New Mexico State and Utah State. Luke Babbitt scored 29 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in the loss. The Wolf Pack will try to rebound when they host Hawai’i.

New Mexico State (12-8, 5-2)

The week’s results: 01/23 L @ San Jose State, 93-84

Upcoming games: 01/30 @ Louisiana Tech

The Aggies had their four game win streak snapped by San Jose State as the two teams had a shootout. Jahmar Young scored a career-high 34 points in the loss and the Aggies dropped into a tie for second place with Utah State. The Aggies finish up a three game road trip with a trip to Ruston, LA to take on league-leading Louisiana Tech.

San Jose State (12-8, 5-3)

The week’s results: 01/23 W vs. New Mexico State, 93-84; 01/28 W vs. Hawai’i, 83-60

Upcoming games: 01/30 @ Utah State; 02/04 @ Louisiana Tech

The Spartans knocked off New Mexico State in a shootout and then exacted revenge for a last-second loss at Hawai’i. The Spartans have won three in a row (and four out of five) but their hot streak will get a stiff test as they face Utah State in Logan, and then Louisiana Tech in Ruston. Adrian Oliver was named the WAC Player of the Week for his 39-point performance against Louisiana Tech, and 22-point performance against New Mexico State. He added a 31-point performance against Hawai’i.

Utah State (15-6, 5-2)

The week’s results: 01/23 W @ Idaho, 60-48

Upcoming games: 01/30 vs. San Jose State; 02/03 vs. Idaho

The Aggies continued their strong run with a victory over Idaho in Moscow. The game pitted teacher versus student at Stew Morrill’s Aggies took down Don Verlin’s Vandals. The win by Utah State was Morrill’s 500th career victory. The Aggies host a hot San Jose State team and then get a rematch at home against Idaho.

UPCOMING GAMES

* 01/30 – Utah State vs. San Jose State – 7:00 p.m. MT (CW30-Utah)

* 01/30 – Seattle vs. Idaho – 7:10 p.m. PT

* 01/30 – Nevada vs. Hawai’i – 7:00 p.m. PT (ESPNU)

* 01/30 – Boise State vs. Fresno State – 8:15 p.m. MT (Bulldog Sports Network)

* 01/30 – Louisiana Tech vs. New Mexico State – 8:00 p.m. CT

* 02/03 – Utah State vs. Idaho – 9:00 p.m. MT (ESPN2)

* 02/04 – Louisiana Tech vs. San Jose State – 7:00 p.m. CT (ESPN Regional)

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Checking in on… the WAC

Posted by rtmsf on January 22nd, 2010

Sam Wasson of bleedCrimson.net and Travis Mason-Bushman of Vandal Nation are the RTC correspondents for the Western Athletic Conference.

Current Standings

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

The cream is starting to rise to the top as Louisiana Tech and New Mexico State lead the league at 5-1 but preseason pick Utah State is tied with perennial WAC power Nevada for third place at 4-2.  The battle for the middle of the league is being waged between a better-than-their-record-indicates San Jose State squad along with a slumping Fresno State and a beaten-up Hawai’i squad.  The battle for the WAC basement resides in the state of Idaho where the Broncos of Boise State are off to their worst league start ever and Idaho is off to a surprising 1-4 start.

Boise State (9-11, 0-7)

The week’s results:
01/16 L @ Utah State, 81-59
01/20 L vs. Nevada, 88-82

Upcoming games:
01/25 @ Idaho

Things did not get any better for the Broncos in the past week as they extended their losing streak to seven games after being blown out by Utah State and dropping a tight contest at home to Nevada.  The Broncos are now off to their worst start in league play ever and it’s their longest losing streak since the 2001-02 season.  Despite their seven-game losing streak, the Broncos are not out of contention just yet for a spot in the conference tournament.  Their in-state brethren, the Idaho Vandals, have won just one league game and with a game against Utah State before round one of the in-state showdown, it is conceivable that the Broncos could tie things up at the bottom with a win next week over Idaho.

Fresno State (10-10, 3-3)

The week’s results:
01/16 L @ New Mexico State, 86-77
01/21 vs. Utah State, 69-43

Upcoming games:
01/23 vs. Nevada
01/28 @ Idaho

The Bulldogs have lost three straight after starting league play 3-0.  Their latest setback was a thrashing at the hands of Utah State.  The Bulldogs’ bigger concern is the health of their leading scorer Paul George who sprained an ankle early in the loss and did not return.  His return to the court is up in the air and with a tough game against Nevada coming up, a hot start to the season is threatening to give way to a midseason slide.

Hawaii (9-10, 2-4)

The week’s results:
01/18 W vs San Jose State, 68-67
01/21 L vs. New Mexico State, 71-69

Upcoming games:
01/24 vs Louisiana Tech
01/28 @ San Jose State

The Warriors were involved in a pair of down-to-the-wire thrillers as they hosted San Jose State and New Mexico State.  They were on the winning side of one and the losing side of on, edging out San Jose State on a pair of free throws with 2.1 seconds remaining but then falling victim to a last second jumper from New Mexico State’s Jahmar Young.  The Warriors host their second league leading team when the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs come to town on January 24, and follow that up with a rematch against San Jose State.  A split of the two games would keep the Warriors in the middle of the WAC pack.

Idaho (8-8, 1-4)

The week’s results:
01/16 L @ Nevada, 76-68

Upcoming games:
01/23 vs. Utah State
01/25 vs. Boise State
01/28 vs. Fresno State

The Vandals are on a three-game losing streak after falling to Nevada on the road last week.  Idaho has a crucial three-game home stand starting with red-hot Utah State, then in-state rival Boise State in a game that could determine which of the two teams stays out of the WAC basement for the remainder of the season and ending with a game against a potentially Paul George-less Fresno State.  Idaho can put itself right back in the league race with a sweep of the home stand or, if they lose all three games, they could find themselves in the WAC basement.

Louisiana Tech (17-2, 5-0)

The week’s results:
01/21 L @ San Jose State, 87-76

Upcoming games:
01/24 @ Hawai’i

The Bulldogs’ winning streak came to an end in San Jose as the Spartans knocked off the league leader 87-76.   The loss snapped a 10-game win streak.  Kyle Gibson led the Bulldogs with 22 points but it was not enough to offset his career night by SJSU’s Adrian Oliver who scored 39 points.  The Bulldogs will look to get back on the winning track when they face Hawai’i.

Nevada (10-7, 2-2)

The week’s results:
01/16 W vs. Idaho, 76-68
01/20 @ Boise State, 88-82

Upcoming games:
01/23 @ Fresno State

The Wolf Pack beat the two Idaho schools, one at home and the other on the road to bounce back from their overtime loss to Utah State on national television.  The Wolf Pack improved to 4-2 and sit just a half game behind New Mexico State in the loss column.

New Mexico State (10-7, 3-1)

The week’s results:
01/16 W vs. Fresno State, 86-77
01/21 W @ Hawai’i, 71-69

Upcoming games:
01/23 @ San Jose State

New Mexico State is on a roll having won four in a row following a disappointing loss to Nevada back on January 4.  The Aggies have posted back-to-back comeback wins against Fresno State and Hawai’i.  Jahmar Young buried a last second 18-foot jumper with 0.9 seconds left on the clock to give the Aggies a win at Hawai’i.  That coupled with a loss by Louisiana Tech at San Jose State moved the Aggies into a tie for first place atop the WAC.  The Aggies face San Jose State on Saturday night in a game that will feature a couple of electric scorers in New Mexico State’s Jahmar Young and San Jose State’s Adrian Oliver, who torched Louisiana Tech for 39 points in SJSU’s win.

San Jose State (10-8, 3-3)

The week’s results:
01/18 L @ Hawai’i, 68-67
01/21 W vs. Louisiana Tech, 87-76

Upcoming games:
01/23 vs. New Mexico State
01/28 vs. Hawai’i

The Spartans split their two games, losing a heartbreaker to Hawai’i 68-67 when the Warriors hit a pair of free throws with 2.1 seconds left to win the game.  However, they bounced back to hand Louisiana Tech their first loss in conference play.  Adrian Oliver scored a career-high 39 points, one shy of the single game record of 40 set by Wally Rank on January 3, 1980.  The Spartans host league leading New Mexico State on Saturday in a game that should be a shootout.

Utah State (14-6, 4-2)

The week’s results:
01/16 W vs. Boise State, 81-59
01/21 W @ Fresno State, 69-43

Upcoming games:
01/23 @ Idaho

The Aggies have their mojo back.  After getting pounded by 22 at Louisiana Tech, Utah State has found whatever they were missing and is now the team doing the pounding.  Riding a four-game win streak the Aggies have beaten three of their past four opponents by an average of 30.7 points.  Their lone close game was an impressive overtime win in Reno, site of this year’s conference tournament.  The Aggies travel to Moscow, ID, to take on the Vandals where it will pit head coach Stew Morrill against long-time assistant Don Verlin who is now in his second season at Idaho.

UPCOMING GAMES

01/23 – Idaho vs. Utah State – 5:00 p.m. PT (ESPN360)
01/23 – Hawai’i vs. Louisiana Tech – 7:00 p.m. HT (KFVE Honolulu)
01/23 – San Jose State vs. New Mexico State – 7:00 p.m. PT
01/23 – Fresno State vs. Nevada – 7:00 p.m. PT (Comcast SportsNet California)
01/25 – Idaho vs. Boise State – 8:00 p.m. PT (ESPNU)
01/28 – San Jose State vs. Hawai’i – 7:00 p.m. PT
01/28 – Idaho vs. Fresno State – 7:00 p.m. PT

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Checking in on… the WAC

Posted by jstevrtc on January 16th, 2010

Sam Wasson of bleedCrimson.net and Travis Mason-Bushman of Vandal Nation are the RTC correspondents for the Western Athletic Conference.

The WAC opened up league play this past weekend and after the first weekend there were a couple of surprises.  The biggest surprise came from Utah State.  The Aggies went on the road to open up league play and lost to New Mexico State in a close game and then were blown out by Louisiana Tech two nights later.  The preseason pick to win the league by both the media and coaches has their work cut out for them if they hope to win the league title for a third consecutive season.

Current Standings:

  1. Louisiana Tech, 17-2 (5-0)
  2. New Mexico State, 10-7 (3-1)
  3. Fresno State 10-8 (3-1)
  4. Utah State, 12-6 (2-2)
  5. Nevada, 10-7 (2-2)
  6. San Jose State 9-7 (2-2)
  7. Idaho 8-7, (1-3)
  8. Hawai’i, 8-9 (1-3)
  9. Boise State, 9-9 (0-5)

After the first two weekends of play there has been some significant shifting among the top and bottom.  Louisiana Tech continues to lead the league race starting out 5-0 while on the opposite end of the spectrum, Boise State is really behind the eight ball after losing their first five games of conference play.  With this year’s tournament no longer having a play-in game between the 8th and 9th place teams, the Broncos will be fighting for their postseason lives the rest of the way.

Boise State (9-9, 0-5)

The week’s results:

  • 01/09 L vs. New Mexico State, 88-85
  • 01/11 L vs. Louisiana Tech, 79-64
  • 01/14 L @ San Jose State, 76-74

Upcoming games:

  • 01/16 @ Utah State
  • 01/20 vs. Nevada

Disaster.  After entering league play at 9-4 the Broncos are on a five game skid and, even though it’s only a quarter way through the league schedule, they have to be in a bit of a panic mode.  Only the top eight teams in the league will participate in the WAC tournament this season as the league has gotten rid of the play-in game between the 8th and 9th place team.  The Broncos’ road does not get any easier with games at Utah State and then versus Nevada at home followed by the in-state rivalry game at Idaho.  It is entirely possible that the Broncos could be 0-8 midway through the conference race.

Fresno State (10-8, 3-1)

The week’s results:

  • 01/09 W vs. Hawai’i, 78-64
  • 01/11 W vs. San Jose State, 80-70
  • 01/14 L @ Louisiana Tech, 81-73

Upcoming games:

  • 01/16 @ New Mexico State
  • 01/21 vs. Utah State

The Bulldogs won two of three games over the past week and sit tied for second with New Mexico State.  The Bulldogs picked up a solid win over San Jose State and made one of the longest road trips in the WAC when they faced Louisiana Tech in Ruston.  The Bulldogs made the trip a man down as starting guard Steven Shepp did not make the trip to Ruston due to “academic” reasons as outlined in a statement from head coach Steve Cleveland.  Fresno State found themselves down big in the second half, falling behind by 20 points at 53-33 with 14:33 left to play.  Fresno State, however, showed some fight in the face of adversity and close the gap to just six at 74-68 with three minutes left — but couldn’t climb any closer over the final stretch.  Sylvester Seay and Paul George combined to score 37 points while Mychal Ladd and Greg Smith each pitched in 27.  Backup guard Brandon Sperling filled in for Shepp with five points.  The Bulldogs got just four points off the bench in the loss. Fresno State travels to New Mexico State on Saturday where they’ll battle the suddenly resurgent Aggies as both teams try to keep pace with Louisiana Tech.

Hawaii (8-9, 1-3)

The week’s results:

  • 01/09 L @ Fresno State, 78-64
  • 01/11 L @ Utah State, 98-54

Upcoming games:

  • 01/18 vs San Jose State

Back-to-back losses by Hawai’i on the mainland have dropped the Warriors below the .500 mark.  They suffered a 14 point defeat at Fresno State and then made the trip to Logan, UT where they were punished from start to finish by Utah State.  While there is certainly no shame in losing in Logan — most teams that enter the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum do not leave victorious — it was the observation of the Salt Lake Tribune‘s Tony Jones that is cause for concern.  Jones stated after the game, “Hawaii flat out quit in this game and that’s pretty embarrassing for a Division I team to do with 30 minutes remaining in a basketball game.” The Warriors host San Jose State as the try to get back on the positive side of things.

Idaho (8-7, 1-3)

The week’s results:

  • 01/09 L vs. Louisiana Tech, 77-71
  • 01/11 L vs. New Mexico State, 75-72

Upcoming games:

  • 01/16 @ Nevada

After splitting their conference-opening road trip the Vandals’ regular season title hopes took a big hit as they were swept by Louisiana Tech and New Mexico State at home.  Both games were within reach for the Vandals down the stretch but the inability to make free throws (or any shot, for that matter) in the latter stages of the second half against Louisiana Tech and then the inability to make a defensive stop against New Mexico State in the same time frame cost the Vandals both games.  With a 1-3 record Idaho sits effectively four games behind Louisiana Tech — three games in the  loss column, plus losing the first head-to-head matchup.  The road does not get any easier as they face Nevada at Lawlor Arena in Reno on Saturday, a place where they have only won once since joining the WAC (it was just last season).

Louisiana Tech (16-2, 4-0)

The week’s results:

  • 01/09 W @ Idaho, 77-71
  • 01/11 W @ Boise State, 79-64
  • 01/14 vs. Fresno State, 81-73

Upcoming games:

  • 01/21 @ San Jose State

The Bulldogs continue to impress after a road sweep in the state of Idaho and a home victory over second place Fresno State.  After securing a hard fought victory over Idaho, the Bulldogs ran roughshod over the Broncos, winning 79-64.  At 17-2 the Bulldogs are off to their best start since the 1984-85 season and have rattled off ten consecutive victories.  Their 5-0 league record is their best start since joining the WAC.  Kyle Gibson scored a career-high 33 points in the victory over visiting Fresno State. Louisiana Tech takes their show back on the road as they’ll face San Jose State on the 21st, part of their longest road trip of the season as they’ll face Hawai’i two nights later.

Nevada (10-7, 2-2)

The week’s results:

  • 01/09 W vs. San Jose State, 96-67
  • 01/13 L vs. Utah State, 79-72 (OT)

Upcoming games:

  • 01/16 vs. Idaho
  • 01/20 @ Boise State

After splitting their opening road trip in conference play the Wolf Pack did the same in their first two home conference games.  After picking up an impressive 96-67 victory over a better-than-their-record San Jose State squad the Wolf Pack hosted Utah State on Wednesday night in a nationally televised game on ESPN2.  While the two teams did not disappoint on the court for most home viewers, it was the Wolf Pack fans who went home disappointed.  Nevada gave up a 10-point second half lead and were pushed to overtime where Utah State took over the game.  The Wolf Pack hit just 9-18 free throws in the game.  The loss evened the Wolf Pack’s record to 2-2 in league play but with games against the two Idaho schools coming up, they could put themselves in a good position nearly midway through the league race.

New Mexico State (10-7, 3-1)

The week’s results:

  • 01/09 W @ Boise State, 88-85
  • 01/11 W @ Idaho, 75-72

Upcoming games:

  • 01/16 vs. Fresno State

New Mexico State erased the disappointment of their home loss to Nevada by sweeping the state of Idaho in a pair of down-to-the-wire games.  The Aggies faced off against Boise State in a game in which neither team seemed to be able to hold a lead.  In the first half the Aggies led by six, then trailed by ten, but cut the lead to four by halftime.  Then in the second half the Aggies led by two early in the second half, but then trailed by seven shortly thereafter…only to go up by nine with under nine minutes left.  They then gave up the lead and trailed by four with just under two minutes left before finally rallying to win by three.  It was the sixth consecutive game between the two that the victorious team scored at least 80 points.  Against Idaho, the Aggies’ Jahmar Young scored 32 points, one shy of his career high; every point was critical as the Aggies held off Idaho down the stretch.  The Aggies have never had an easy time in Moscow but continued their dominance over the Vandals, having now won nine of the last ten meetings. The Aggies host Fresno State on Saturday with second place in the standings on the line.  With Louisiana Tech threatening to make the league race a fight for second, the Aggies and Bulldogs will both be hungry for the win to try to keep pace with Louisiana Tech.

San Jose State (9-7, 2-2)

The week’s results:

  • 01/09 L @ Nevada, 96-67
  • 01/11 L @ Fresno, 80-70
  • 01/14 W vs. Boise State, 76-74

Upcoming games:

  • 01/18 @ Hawai’i
  • 01/21 vs. Louisiana Tech

The Spartans played three games over the past week and came away with a 1-2 record.  After getting blown out by Nevada and losing on the road to Fresno State, the Spartans bounced back with a win over Boise State at home.  Adrian Oliver led the way with a season-high 33 points.  It was SJSU’s first win over Boise State in their past 15 games and just their second win in the past 21 meetings.  San Jose State makes the trip to the islands to face a reeling Hawai’i squad before returning home to host league leader Louisiana Tech.

Utah State (12-6, 2-2)

The week’s results:

  • 01/11 W vs. Hawai’i, 98-54
  • 01/13 W @ Nevada, 79-72 (OT)

Upcoming games:

  • 01/16 vs. Boise State
  • 01/21 @ Fresno State

Shellshocked no more. Whatever the Aggies were missing on offense in their first two league games in averaging just 55 points per game, they found it when they returned to Logan.  The Aggies stomped visiting Hawai’i, scoring 98 points –  43 above their average in the first two games.  They followed it up with a gritty road victory over Nevada in overtime.  The Aggies erased a 10-point deficit late in the second half to force overtime,  subsequently outscoring Nevada 10-3 as Jared Quayle and Tyler Newbold each hit three pointers for the Aggies.  Utah State found their shot as they hit 50% of their three point attempts in the game (8-16) and were 11-13 from the free throw line.

UPCOMING GAMES

  • 01/16 – Nevada vs. Idaho – 7:00 p.m. PT
  • 01/16 – Utah State vs. Boise State – 7:00 p.m. MT (CW30-Utah)
  • 01/16 – New Mexico State vs. Fresno State – 7:00 p.m. MT (AggieVision, Bulldog Sports Network)
  • 01/17 – Hawai’i vs. San Jose State – 7:00 p.m. HT (KFVE Honolulu)
  • 01/20 – Boise State vs. Nevada – 7:00 p.m. MT (Comcast SportsNet California)
  • 01/21 – Fresno State vs. Utah State – 7:00 p.m. PT
  • 01/21 – San Jose State vs. Louisiana Tech – 7:00 p.m. PT
  • 01/21 – Hawai’i vs. New Mexico State – 7:00 p.m. HT (KFVE Honolulu)
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Ten Tuesday Scribbles…

Posted by zhayes9 on January 12th, 2010

RTC contributor and bracketologist Zach Hayes will deliver ten permeating thoughts every Tuesday as the season progresses.

1. Other than Kansas students, graduates, former players and all former or current residents of Lawrence, was there anyone in this fine country of ours rooting for the #1 Jayhawks to beat a depleted Tennessee team, a group of kids and a stunned head coach that just dealt with the suspension and/or dismissal of four of its regular rotation players? All of the events that occurred in that two-hour window in Knoxville Sunday was a release of pent-up frustration and anxiety from a tumultuous week in which Tennessee was considered a prime threat to upend favorite Kentucky in the SEC one day and counted out as a SEC contender that must scratch and claw the final two months for an NCAA berth the next. Renaldo Woolridge banking in a three, the Vols maintaining their lead with Wayne Chism and J.P. Prince on the bench with four fouls, the coach’s son Steven taking a critical charge, a miracle Skyler McBee (one of three walk-ons playing substantial minutes) leaning trey that iced the game, and coach Bruce Pearl aiding the Volunteer mascot in waving the orange Tennessee flag while the sounds of Rocky Top reverberated throughout Thompson-Boling Arena summed up what college basketball should be about. Bill Self pointed this out after the game, but there are some moments during a season when a team officially becomes a team instead of a group of individuals. Even though Pearl would gladly reset the timer to New Year’s Eve and prevent four scholarship players from getting in that car, sometimes it takes a catastrophic occurrence that truly tests the mettle of a unit for them to band together and accomplish lofty goals. I think it’s fair to say Tennessee became a team Sunday night.

2. As long as Mike Anderson is employing his Forty Minutes of Hell hellacious press on demoralized opponents, especially on a home floor where his team has won 30 consecutive games, Missouri should never be totally counted out of the Big 12 race. Losing DeMarre Carroll, Leo Lyons and Matt Lawrence from an Elite 8 squad isn’t easy to overcome, and certainly the ceiling for the Tigers isn’t nearly as high, but the ultra-talented and quick Mizzou backcourt should have enough firepower to carry them to an NCAA berth. Missouri carried an impressive 12-3 record into their Big 12 opener with #10 Kansas State Saturday, yet their overall resume wasn’t incredibly awe-inspiring with their best wins over Old Dominion, Illinois, Georgia and Oregon and opportunities lost in defeats at the hands of Richmond, Vanderbilt and Oral Roberts. The win Saturday was clearly a statement that Missouri will be a contending force in the Big 12 for that #3 spot behind Texas and Kansas. Anderson looks to have a workable combination with experienced seniors J.T. Tiller and Zaire Taylor (evident by Taylor’s tie-breaking 3 with under a minute to play) making plays in late-game situations, a promising sophomore backcourt duo of Kim English and Marcus Denmon carrying most of the scoring load, and a defensive unit that ranks seventh overall in D efficiency, first in turnovers forced and gives Missouri a fighting chance on any night.

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Checking in on… the WAC

Posted by rtmsf on January 8th, 2010

Sam Wasson of bleedCrimson.net and Travis Mason-Bushman of Vandal Nation are the RTC correspondents for the Western Athletic Conference.

The WAC opened up league play this past weekend and after the first weekend there were a couple of surprises.  The biggest surprise came from Utah State.  The Aggies went on the road to open up league play and lost to New Mexico State in a close game and then were blown out by Louisiana Tech two nights later.  The preseason pick to win the league by both the media and coaches has their work cut out for them if they hope to win the league title for a third consecutive season.

Standings

1) Louisiana Tech, 14-2 (2-0)
2) San Jose State, 8-5 (1-0)
3) Fresno State 8-7 (1-0)
T4) Idaho 8-5 (1-1)
T4) Nevada, 9-6 (1-1)
T4) Hawai’i, 8-7 (1-1)
T4) New Mexico State, 8-7 (1-1)
T8) Utah State, 10-6 (0-2)
T8) Boise State, 9-6 (0-2)

The league saw a significant drop in scoring in the first weekend of games.  Perhaps the familiarity of the offensive sets and plays had something to do with that but after two games Louisiana Tech leads the league in scoring and is averaging 79.5 points per game.  Five of the nine teams are averaging less than 70 points per game (in non-conference play seven of nine teams averaged at least 73 points per game) and Utah State has struggled to find their offense scoring just 56 points per game through two contests.

Team Breakdowns

Boise State (9-6, 0-2)

The week’s results:  01/02 L @ Fresno State, 71-68, 01/05 @ Hawai’i, 76-68

Upcoming games:  01/09 vs. New Mexico State, 01/11 vs. Louisiana Tech

The Broncos opened conference play on the road and were dealt two losses.  The Broncos led Fresno State nearly the entire game but Fresno State’s Paul George hit a layup and drew a foul on Boise State’s Robert Arnold to give Fresno State a 68-66 lead with 48.5 seconds left.  After Boise State tied the game up with 22.6 seconds left Paul George got another layup and was fouled giving the Bulldogs a 71-68 lead.  The Broncos were unable to hit the three-pointer as time expired as they let one slip away.  Against Hawai’i the Broncos trailed big early falling behind 21-7 with 8:59 left in the first half but by halftime they had erased the 14 point deficit and took a 28-27 lead into the break.  The Warriors went on a 12-2 run in the second half and built a lead they would not relinquish.  Boise State’s Daequon Montreal leads the Broncos in scoring in league play averaging 20 points per game and is sixth in the league in scoring through two conference games.  The Broncos are the second best team in the league in steals and are averaging 6.5 steals per game.  Despite their two losses the Broncos lead the league in assists per game averaging 15.0 per game.  The Broncos host New Mexico State and league leading Louisiana Tech this coming week. A minimum split of these two games at home is a must if the Broncos want to keep from falling behind in the league race.

Fresno State (8-7, 1-0)

The week’s results:  01/02 W vs. Boise State, 71-68

Upcoming games:  01/09 vs. Hawai’i, 01/11 vs. San Jose State

The Bulldogs played just one league game last week but they made it count as they rallied at home to defeat Boise State.  Paul George’s 21 points in the conference opener included two three-point plays in the final minute as they erased a 7 point deficit with 5:10 left to play.  George was 11-of-12 from the free throw line in the game.  The Bulldogs have a very favorable schedule to start league play with five of the first seven at home.  Fresno State leads the league in free throw percentage and are hitting 75 percent of their attempts. They are also fourth in the league in steals averaging 6.0 steals per game.  The Bulldogs host Hawai’i and San Jose State this coming week, a pair of games that the Bulldogs must win to establish themselves as an upper tier team in the conference.

Hawai’i (8-7, 1-1)

The week’s results:  01/03 L vs. Idaho, 59-52, 01/05 W vs. Boise State, 76-68

Upcoming games:  01/09 @ Fresno State, 01/11 @ Utah State

The Warriors split their opening weekend’s conference games as they fell 59-52 to Idaho in a defensive struggle.  The Warriors trailed 40-26 with 16:30 left to play but cut the Vandal lead down to four at 49-45 with 3:18 left to play but could get no closer.  The two teams combined to go just 26-of-43 from the free throw line as Hawai’i hit 14-of-21 and Idaho hit 12-of-22.  The Warriors rebounded two nights later as they hosted Boise State.  They used a 12-2 run early in the second half to put themselves comfortably ahead and then used a 14-for-15 performance from the free throw line in the final seven minutes to seal the deal.  In stark contrast to their previous game the Warriors hit 20-of-26 free throws (76.9 percent).  The Warriors lead the league in scoring defense through two games allowing just 63.5 points per game.  They are also third in the league in free throw percentage at 72.3 and have attempted the most free throws in the league with 47 attempts.  Paul Campbell leads the league in field goal percentage at 87.5 percent having hit 14-of-16 shots through two games.  The Warriors go on the road to Fresno State and Utah State this week.  A split of the two games would be considered a huge plus for the team.

Idaho (8-5, 1-1)

The week’s results:  01/03 W @ Hawai’i, 59-52, 01/04 L @ San Jose State, 78-75

Upcoming games:  01/09 vs. Louisiana Tech, 01/11 vs. New Mexico State

The Vandals split their road trip to Hawai’i and San Jose State as they held on for a hard fought 59-52 victory over Hawai’i but fell to the Spartans by three in a back-and-forth battle in San Jose.  Both teams shot above 50 percent for the game.  Mac Hopson led Idaho with 19 points, eight rebounds and seven assists.  Idaho held a six point lead early in the second half but were undone by a six-minute offensive drought.  Idaho is second in the league in three point percentage hitting 37.8 percent of their threes (14-of-37) and tops in the league in three point defense as opponents have hit just 7-of-28 through two league games.  The Vandals host league leading Louisiana Tech and New Mexico State this coming week and a sweep at home would put the Vandals in prime position as they play five of their next six conference games at home.

Louisiana Tech (14-2, 2-0)

The week’s results:  01/02 W vs. Nevada, 77-71, 01/04 W vs. Utah State, 82-60

Upcoming games:  01/09 @ Idaho, 01/11 @ Boise State, 01/14 vs. Fresno State

Doubters of Louisiana Tech’s gaudy 12-2 record in non-conference play were quickly silenced as the Bulldogs had a pair of statement victories to open league play.  The Bulldogs held off Nevada 77-71 and then obliterated preseason favorite Utah State 82-60.  Jamel Guyton led the way for the Bulldogs against the Wolf Pack scoring 21 points on 7-of-14 shooting and 6-of-7 shooting from the free throw stripe he added six rebounds and three steals and played 38 minutes.  Kyle Gibson played all 40 minutes against the Pack and added 17 points, seven rebounds and a pair of steals.  Against Utah State the Bulldogs trailed 2-0 but a three pointer gave them a 3-2 lead five minutes into the game and they would not trail for the remainder.  The Bulldogs held a 33-point lead at 69-36 before eventually winning by 22.  Magnum Rolle finished the game with 21 points on 9-of-15 shooting and added 14 rebounds for another double-double.  Louisiana Tech hit 53.3 percent of their field goals, 50 percent of their three point attempts (7-of-14) and 73.3. percent of their free throws (11-of-15) in the rout.  The Bulldogs lead the conference in scoring at 79.5 points per game and have a +14.0 scoring margin per game, the second best margin in the league is +3.0 (Fresno State and San Jose State).  The Bulldogs are second in the legaue in field goal percentage having hit 50 percent of their shots, they are also the best field goal percentage defense allowing just 41.6 percent of their opponents shots to go in.  To go along with the defensive effort the Bulldogs lead the league in steals per game at 7.5.  The Bulldogs will look to further silence their critics as they travel to the state of Idaho this weekend to face Idaho and Boise State.

Nevada (9-6, 1-1)

The week’s results:  01/02 W @ Louisiana Tech, 77-71, 01/04 W @ NMSU, 77-67

Upcoming games:  01/09 vs. San Jose State, 01/13 vs. Utah State

The Wolf Pack earned a road split in one of the most difficult road trips in the WAC, the Ruston/Las Cruces trip.  After dropping a game to Louisiana Tech to start the conference season, the second consecutive season in which they’ve dropped the season opener, the Wolf Pack rebounded with a commanding victory over New Mexico State.  Though the final margin in the victory over New Mexico State was just 10 points, there was little drama in the second half.  Leading by just seven at the break the Wolf Pack never allowed the Aggies to get closer than five points (41-36) and held a 17-point lead at 71-54 with 3:43 remaining to play.  Luke Babbitt played 39 minutes and scored a game high 26 points and grabbed 11 rebounds.  He finished 10-of-14 from the floor and a perfect 3-of-3 from behind the three point arc.  It was Babbitt’s seventh 20-plus point performance and fifth consecutive.  It was also his 10th double-double in 15 games this season.  The Wolf Pack lead the league in rebounding margin at +8.0 per game and are averaging 40.5 rebounds per game.  They also lead the league in offensive rebounds per game at 13.5 and defensive rebounds per game at 27.0 per game.  Lack of bench production continues to be a concern for the Wolf Pack as an article earlier this week by the Reno Gazette-Journal’s beat writer Chris Murray reported that Nevada’s bench contributes just 43 minutes per game, lowest in the league.  They score just 11.7 points per game, third worst in the league.  The Wolf Pack host their next three conference games as San Jose State, Utah State and Idaho all come to Reno.

New Mexico State (8-7, 1-1)

The week’s results:  01/02 W vs. Utah State, 55-52, 01/04 L vs. Nevada, 77-71

Upcoming games:  01/09 @ Boise State, 01/11 @ Idaho

New Mexico State grinded out a 55-52 victory over Utah State to string together their fifth victory of the season.  Jonathan Gibson’s jumper with 17 seconds remaining gave the southern Aggies a three point lead and when Utah State’s three pointer with three seconds left hit iron New Mexico State fans breathed a sigh of relief.  The Aggies went through a six minute scoring drought allowing Utah State to climb back into the game but solid defense down the stretch, a rarity in Las Cruces this season, enabled the southern Aggies to hang on for the victory.  Unfortunately for Marvin Menzies and his crew the euphoria was short lived as Luke Babbitt and Nevada strolled into town two nights later.  The Wolf Pack dominated the Aggies from start to finish.  The Aggies never led in the game and there was just one tie, 2-2, 2:18 into the game.  The Aggie defense had no answer for Luke Babbitt and he scored inside and outside on the Aggies and finished with 26 points.  The Aggies did have five players finish in double-figures in scoring, generally a stat that leads to a win, however, the Aggies’ high-scoring combo of Jahmar Young and Jonathan Gibson mustered only 27 points combined (the duo averaged nearly 40 points per game combined in non-conference play).  The Aggies lead the league in turnover margin at +4.0 and are second in the league in scoring defense giving up 64.5 points per game.  The high flying Aggie offense has been grounded through two league games and are averaging 61.0 points per game, only bettering the 56.0 points per game their fellow Aggies from Logan have put up through two games.  New Mexico State takes the trip to the state of Idaho as they face Boise State and Idaho this weekend.  The Aggies and Broncos have had some wild affairs the past several seasons and the Aggies have never had a particularly easy time in Moscow, even when the Vandals were way down.  Their largest margin of victory over Idaho is just 10 points and last season they suffered their first loss at Idaho since joining the league in the 2005-06 season.

San Jose State (8-5, 1-0)

The week’s results:  01/04 W vs. Idaho, 78-75

Upcoming games:  01/09 @ Nevada, 01/11 @ Fresno State, 01/14 vs. Boise State

The Spartans played just one conference game on opening weekend but they made it count.  SJSU squeaked by Idaho in an offensive slugfest.  Both teams shot above 50 percent from the game but it was Adrian Oliver’s three pointer late in the game that proved to be the difference maker.  The Spartans won a conference opener for the first time since the 1998-99 season.  Adrian Oliver led the Spartans with 22 points on 8-of-17 shooting.  C.J. Webster added 21 points and 11 rebounds on 10-of-14 shooting.  The Spartans are second in the league in scoring at 78.0 points per game and are second best in the league in free throw shooting hitting 73.3 percent of their attempts.  The Spartans will fully kick off the conference season with road trip to face Nevada and Fresno State followed by a home contest against Boise State.  A 2-1 stretch in the three games could signal that San Jose State is ready to get out of the WAC basement.

Utah State (10-6, 0-2)

The week’s results:  01/02 L @ NMSU, 55-52, 01/04 L @ Louisiana Tech, 82-60

Upcoming games:  01/11 vs. Hawai’i, 01/13 @ Nevada

Shellshocked. That’s what the Aggie faithful must be feeling after a shocking 0-2 road trip to open conference play.  After losing a grinder against New Mexico State in a game that favored the northern Aggies, Utah State went on the road and suffered their second worst loss in conference play since joining the WAC (a 100-70 loss at New Mexico State in the 2007-2008 season was the worst).  The last time the Aggies started 0-2 in the WAC they were 10-3 heading into league play and finished just 9-7 but advanced to the conference championship game before falling to host New Mexico State by two.  It’s no time to panic if you’re a Utah State fan. History is on your side.  Two games into the conference season the Aggie offense is nowhere to be found.  The Aggies are averaging a league worst 56 points per game.  The Aggies are second worst in the league in three point shooting 23.1 percent a departure from their normally hot three point shooting.  Utah State hosts Hawai’i as they try to get in the win column and then two days later they travel to Reno for they always contentious battle with the Wolf Pack.

UPCOMING GAMES

  • 01/09 – Idaho vs. Louisiana Tech – 5:00 p.m. PT
  • 01/09 – Fresno State vs. Hawai’i – 7:00 p.m. PT
  • 01/09 – Boise State vs. New Mexico State – 7:00 p.m. MT
  • 01/09 – Nevada vs. San Jose State – 7:00 p.m. PT
  • 01/11 – Fresno State vs. San Jose State – 7:00 p.m. PT
  • 01/11 – Idaho vs. New Mexico State – 7:00 p.m. PT (ESPNU)
  • 01/11 – Boise State vs. Louisiana Tech – 7:00 p.m. MT
  • 01/11 – Utah State vs. Hawai’i – 7:00 p.m. MT
  • 01/13 – Nevada vs. Utah State – 8:00 p.m. PT (ESPN2)
  • 01/14 – San Jose State vs. Boise State – 7:00 p.m. PT
  • 01/14 – Louisiana Tech vs. Fresno State – 8:00 p.m. CT (ESPN Regional)
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