Boise State (8-4) will begin the defense of their 2007 Western Athletic Conference title with one game this week at Fresno State (5-8) on Saturday afternoon. The WAC opener for the Broncos is scheduled to tip-off in the Save Mart Center at 1:00 p.m. (Pacific). Boise State is 2-4 in WAC openers, but did win last year’s at Utah State 80-70. The Broncos have won two straight and five of their last six games, while Fresno State has won three straight and five of their last seven. The Bulldogs open league play Thursday night when they host Louisiana Tech. Boise State went 2-1 versus Fresno State last year winning the regular season final before eliminating the Bulldogs during the WAC Tournament’s semifinals in Las Cruces, N.M.
Lately For The Broncos...
Boise State (8-4) is coming off a hard-fought 78-74 victory over instate rival Idaho State (8-4) last Saturday on the road. Jessica Thompson, Jackie Lee, and Tasha Harris combined for 51 points and 19 rebounds to lead the Broncos past the Bengals in Pocatello. The win gave Boise State a 4-0 record over teams that advanced to the postseason last year.
Prior to the ISU win, the Broncos took two weeks off for finals and Christmas. They ended their pre-finals schedule by defeated Sacramento State 87-60 in Boise on Dec. 15. Against the Hornets, Boise State led by as many as 44 points during the game. Harris had a team high 19 points followed by Thompson’s 16. Every Bronco scored in the game with all but one recording six or more points.
Looking at the Boise State Broncos . . .
The Broncos are 8-4 overall entering Saturday’s conference opener at Fresno State. They have won two straight and five of their last six contests. The lone loss, 62-61, was on a buzzer beater at Arizona on Dec. 12.
With eight new faces on the team and some early injuries, Boise State struggled to get going this season. They opened with two solid home wins over Loyola Marymount (71-67) and Montana (70-64), then stumbled on the road losing their first three "away" games at Santa Clara (73-51), Saint Mary’s (78-63), and Portland (84-80). Their lone "road" victory at the time was a neutral site victory over Cal State Bakersfield (83-53) at Saint Mary’s on Nov. 23.
The players began to gel and figure out their roles during the Portland game. Since then the team has begun to roll going 5-1. The Broncos swept their next three opponents with dominating wins at home over Oral Roberts (73-64) and Washington (88-66), followed by a come from behind win at Washington State (71-64). They closed their pre-Christmas schedule with the heartbreaking loss at Arizona (62-61) and a commanding 87-60 win at home over Sacramento State.
They have played once since returning from a break for finals and Christmas. They traveled to instate rival Idaho State on Dec. 29 where they won a hard-fought battle, 78-74, over the 2007 NCAA Tournament participants from Pocatello, Idaho.
Boise State is currently undefeated at home this season going 5-0 to date. They have trailed at home by a combined 37 seconds in the last nine halves or 180 minutes played at Taco Bell Arena in Boise. The Broncos’ five wins to date has moved their record to 26-6 at home since Coach Presnell took over for the 2005-06 campaign, three years ago.
Boise State is the defending Western Athletic Conference champions after going 12-4 in league play last season. They set a school record for overall wins after finishing 24-9 during the 2006-07 campaign highlighted by the WAC’s regular season and tournament titles, and a NCAA Tournament first round appearance where they lost 76-67 to George Washington. This year’s Boise State team was picked to repeat their conference championship in 2008 by both the league’s coaches and media.
Who To Watch For The Broncos . . .
Boise State has arguably the best backcourt combination in the Western Athletic Conference in juniors Tasha Harris and Jessica Thompson, both have scored double figure points in every game this season. The two guard combo scores 33 points per game, or nearly half of Boise State’s total of 73 per game.
Harris starts at the point guard position where she has led the Broncos in scoring during seven of the first 12 games. She enters this week leading the WAC in scoring at 17.1 points per game (NCAA 61st, the last NCAA stats released were on 12/16/07) to go with 4.0 rebounds, 3.8 assists (WAC 2nd), and 1.8 steals (WAC t-10th). Harris is a 2007 WAC Preseason All-WAC Second Team honoree.
Thompson is the WAC’s Preseason Player of the Year. The junior starts at the shooting guard position where she is ranked second on the team and fourth in the WAC for scoring at 15.9 points per game. In addition, she averages 4.5 boards (WAC 20th), 2.1 assists, and 2.7 steals (WAC 2nd).
Jackie Lee starts at small forward where she is ranked third on the team in scoring averaging 7.8 points per game and a second best 5.0 rebounds (WAC 17th). Senior center Amanda Stewart leads the Broncos on the glass at 5.3 per game to go with 4.7 points.
Offensively As A Team . . .
Boise State is an up-tempo team who looks to push the ball up the floor. The Broncos feature the WAC’s top ranked scoring offense averaging 73 points per game (NCAA 45th) on 38.5 percent (WAC 6th) shooting from the floor, 33.2 percent (WAC 4th) from three-point range, and 69.8 percent (WAC 2nd) from the foul line. They lead the league for three-pointers per game (NCAA 19th) at 7.3 per contest.
Defensively As A Team . . .
Defensively, Boise State allows 67.4 points per game to rank fifth in the league. Meanwhile, opponents have shot 40 percent (WAC 4th) from the court and 31.6 percent (WAC 4th) from long range. Boise State is a +3.1 (WAC 5th) in rebound margin, 42.8 to 39.7 rpg. The Broncos are forcing 19.3 turnovers per game (WAC 3rd) while giving it away 16.3 times per game (WAC 2nd), they are third the WAC in turnover margin at +3.0.
Scouting Game 13:
Boise State (8-4, 0-0 WAC) at Fresno State (5-8, 0-0 WAC)
1:00 p.m. (Pacific) Saturday, Jan. 5 at Fresno, Calif. (Save Mart Center)
The Series . . .
Saturday’s encounter will be the 19th meeting all-time in the series which the Bulldogs hold a slight 10-8 lead. The two teams met three times last season with Fresno State winning the first, 69-61, at the Save Mart Center. The Broncos won the last two, the first was in Boise, 69-63, followed by a WAC Tournament semifinal win, 68-59, in Las Cruces, N.M.
A Quick Look At Fresno State . . .
The Bulldogs enter the week at 5-8 overall. After opening the season with six consecutive losses they have rebounded to win five of their last seven games. Fresno State has played perhaps the hardest schedule in the WAC with losses to Cal, BYU, Oklahoma State, TCU, Utah, and Arizona State. They have noteworthy victories over Long Beach State, 65-55, and UC Riverside, 68-67. The Bulldogs open their WAC season Thursday night, Jan. 3,at home against Louisiana Tech.
Fresno State is in its fourth season under the direction of Adrian Wiggins where he has accumulated a 54-33 record. The Bulldogs returned one starter and four letterwinners from last year’s 18-13 team that place third in the conference with a 10-6 mark. The 2007-08 Bulldogs were picked to place in the middle of the pack in both WAC preseason polls, the coaches projected them fourth while the media tabbed them fifth.
Statistically For The Bulldogs . . .
As a Team: Fresno State features the WAC’s fourth ranked scoring offense averaging 69.3 points per game while giving up 71.7 (WAC 9th). They have been shooting 39.9 percent (WAC 4th) from the floor, 33.5 percent from 3-point range (WAC 3rd), and 63.4 percent (WAC 6th) from the free throw line. Opponents have shot 44.2 percent (WAC 8th) from the court and 35.3 percent (WAC 7th) from the arc. The Bulldogs are averaging 41.2 boards per game (WAC 5th).
Who to Watch: Fresno State is led first team Preseason All-WAC honoree Tierre Wilson. The senior guard averages 16.8 points per game (WAC 3rd) to go with 4.3 rebounds and 2.6 assists. No one else averages double figure scoring but Wilson is backed up by newcomers Jaleesa Ross and Hayley Munro at 8.7 and 8.0 points per game. Senior center Erica Henry leads the Bulldogs on the glass with 6.3 boards per game (WAC t-8th).
Miscellaneous Notes . . .
► Boise State went 2-1 versus Fresno State last season.
► The Broncos won the last two meetings last year, including a 68-59 win in the WAC Tournament’s semifinals in Las Cruces, N.M.
► Fresno State won the first meeting last year in Fresno, Calif. (Feb. 17) 69-61. Boise State was without two starters in Jackie Thompson and leading scorer Jessica Thompson.
► Tasha Harris averaged a team high 15.0 points per game in three games against Fresno State last year. Jessica Thompson averaged 13.0 ppg in two games, followed by Michelle Hessing at 9.0 ppg.
► The Bulldogs were led by three players in double figure scoring beginning with Tierre Wilson’s 16.0 ppg, Chantella Perera’s 11.7ppg, and Erica Henry’s 10.3 ppg.
► In three games last year Boise State averaged 66.0 points per game while Fresno State countered with 63.7. The Bulldogs had a slight edge on the boards at 41.7 rebounds per game to the Broncos’ 41.3 rpg.
► Boise State junior Tasha Harris is averaging a team best 14.6 points per game and has shot 46.6 percent (27-58) from the floor in her career, five games, versus Fresno State. Jessica Thompson is second in scoring at 9.3 points per game in four previous encounters.
► Only three Bulldogs have previous game experience against Boise State. Tierre Wilson leads the group averaging 11.9 points per game in seven games, followed by Erica Henry’s 6.0 ppg in six contests.