Broncos Boast Best Start to Season In Nearly Three Years
The Boise State men’s basketball team is coming off of one of its most successful seasons in school history finishing with a record 25-9, 12-4 in WAC play, en route to a share of the WAC regular season championship title in addition to its first ever WAC tournament championship. The Broncos success at the conference tournament earned them a berth into the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the 1993-94 season when the Broncos won the Big Sky Conference Tournament with an overall record of 17-13. However, the Broncos are determined to repeat their success on the court as they have already made a statement of what fans can expect from this young team.
This season alone, the Broncos boast a record of 5-1 for the first time since the 2003-04 season when Head Coach Greg Graham was in just his second year at the helm of the program. That season Boise State finished the year at 23-10 overall, 12-6 in conference, earning a bid to the National Invitation Tournament (NIT). The Broncos, who started at 1-1, have posted four consecutive wins this season to improve their record to 5-1. Even more impressive, is that the last time Boise State posted a four-game winning streak after starting the season at 1-1 was in 1992-93 when the Broncos won the Big Sky Tournament.
Adding to the Broncos success is the advantage they receive when playing in front of a home crowd. This season, the Broncos are 5-0 at Taco Bell Arena. In fact, the last time Boise State opened with a perfect record at Taco Bell Arena was in 2006-07 when Boise State lost just two games on its home court (lost to New Mexico State, 69-73, and Nevada, 81-95).
Not to be overlooked is the effect a large and loud home crowd has on Boise State’s winning percentage. In games with 10,000 or more fans, the Broncos are 21-10 and have a winning percentage of .677. Since the arrival of Coach Graham in 2002, Boise State is 17-9 when playing in front of home crowds of 5,000-plus.
With 18 home games scheduled for the 2008-09 season, the most home games since the 2004-05 season, there are plenty of opportunities to catch an exciting game at Taco Bell Arena. In the Broncos first five regular season games at home, two came down to the final minutes of play and were decided by three points or less, while one game went into double-overtime. The most recent thrilling win came against an undefeated Wyoming team hailing from the Mountain West as senior forward Mark Sanchez laid in an inbound pass with 0.09 seconds left on the game clock to edge out the Cowboys, 86-85. The Broncos determination and strength to finish close games is yet another strong indicator of the success that is to be expected this season. In fact, Boise State has posted a record of 10-2 under Greg Graham in overtime games.
The Broncos welcome an abundance of new talent to the starting rotation, with senior Mark Sanchez leading the way as he is currently ranked second in the WAC averaging 17.3 points per game. Junior Kurt Cunningham has proven to be a force on the floor as he leads the conference in field goal percentage (.857), while sophomore forward Paul Noonan tops to WAC in free throw percentage (.900). On the defensive side of the ball, junior transfer Ike Okoye leads the conference in defensive rebounds grabbing 7.17 per game, in addition to ranking second in blocked shots with 2.0 per game. As a team, Boise State ranks first among blocked shots (5.83 per game) while leading the WAC in scoring offense (77.7 points per game).
The conference has recognized the success of Boise State’s young talent as Mark Sanchez was named the Western Athletic Conference Men’s Basketball Player of the Week for the week of Nov. 17-23. The honor marked the first career WAC Player of the Week award for Sanchez, making him just the 10th Bronco to earn the award. During the first week of regular season play, the senior led the Broncos in scoring, posting 14 points at Siena and 25 more against Idaho State. Sanchez recorded his first career double-double in a double overtime win against Idaho State, registering a career-high 14 rebounds to go along with his 25 points. He also dished out a career-high five assists against the Bengals. Sanchez connected on 4-of-6 shots against Siena and hit 6-of-13 against Idaho State for a two-game 52.6 percent average from the field. On the week, Sanchez averaged 19.5 points, 10.0 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game. This marked the 14th time that a player from Boise State since joining the WAC in 2001 to garner the award.
The lone returning starter for the Broncos is junior Anthony Thomas. The guard seems to be unstoppable from beyond the arc as he not only leads the team in three-pointers made (10), but posts the best shooting percentage from beyond the arc boasting a percentage of .526. While he is accurate from the floor, he is not afraid to share the wealth as he leads the team with 31 assists. Last season he finished with 141 assists, the third most in Boise State history and currently needs just 24 more to crack the Broncos’ career top 10 list.
Due to his success in previous years, Thomas was named a preseason second-team All-WAC selection by the league’s coaches, becoming just the third Bronco player named to the preseason second team, joining the ranks of Matt Nelson (2007-08 season) and Coby Karl (2005-06) as previous second-team picks. Last season, Thomas started in all 34 games and averaged 8.5 points and 2.5 rebounds per game. He led the Broncos with 49 steals and finished the season ranked fifth in the WAC with an assist/turnover ratio of 1.55.
Continuing to make history at Boise State is Coach Graham. With the Broncos 92-84 double-overtime win over in-state rival Idaho State, Greg Graham recorded his 110th victory at Boise State, passing Rod Jensen for the coach with the second most wins of all-time at Boise State. Holding the top spot in the Bronco record books as the school’s all-time leader with 213 victories is Coach Bobby Dye, edging out Graham as he currently owns a record of 113-83 at Boise State. However, Graham’s teams at Boise State have won 20 or more games in a season twice, with a school-record 25 last season and 23 in 2003-04, it may be only a matter of time before he approaches the record.
While this year’s team is young and lacks the experience provided by returning starters, the depth of talent on the team is undeniable. The Broncos are currently rotating seven players in and out of the starting five, while the Boise State bench is averaging 24.4 points per game, outscoring its opponents bench by 6.4 points per game.
This season has been nothing short of exciting, with close games, big blocks and dominating dunks fueling Boise State’s success on the floor. The Broncos look to keep the momentum rolling against another Mountain West opponent, facing Colorado State tomorrow (Saturday, Dec. 6) night. Tip-off is at 7 p.m. in Taco Bell Arena.
Head Coach Greg Graham and the Broncos are 29-7 over the last three seasons at home, creating one of the best home court advantages in the WAC. To get to 30-7, your help is needed, so wear your orange and blue and yell loud Saturday night. For tickets, visit any select-a-seat outlet or the Taco Bell Arena Box Office on the night of the game. Go Broncos!
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