Boise State opens three-game homestand with arch-rival Idaho on Thursday...

Week 16 has only one game on the slate but it is against arch-rival Idaho Thursday night in Boise. The 61st meeting between the Boise State (18-6,10-2 WAC) and Idaho (2-22, 1-11 WAC) is scheduled to tip at 7:05 p.m. (Mountain) in Taco Bell Arena. The game will make the Bronco-Vandal series the longest in Boise State history passing the Idaho State series which stands at 60 meetings all-time. The Broncos have won the two previous encounters this year, on the road, against their two instate rivals. A win Thursday would give them a three game sweep for the second consecutive year. In the first meeting with Idaho, Boise State defeated the Vandals 65-60 in a hard-fought battle in Moscow on Feb. 2.

Thursday’s game is the first contest of a three-game homestand for the Broncos as the season winds down to the final three weeks, the season finale is March 6 at Utah State. Boise State currently is tied for the third longest home win streak in the nation with 13 straight. As is the case for every game this close to the end of the season, Thursday’s game with the Vandals is big for Boise State as they try to defend their WAC regular season title from a year ago.

The Broncos are currently in second place a half game behind Fresno State (10-1 WAC) who leads the conference. With three of their final four games at home, Boise State has a favorable schedule down the stretch. Fresno State has four of their final five on the road with three games coming against the current third and fourth place teams; they play New Mexico State (8-3 WAC) the fourth place team twice, back-to-back, before closing the season at Nevada (9-3) the current third place team March 8. In addition, Nevada must travel to New Mexico State next week with the loser falling further behind the top two teams.

However, the Broncos need to take care of their own business to have a chance at the title. Three of the final four opponents for Boise State played the Broncos tight in the first meeting of the season. Boise State defeated Idaho by only five points (65-60) on the road Feb. 2, won at San Jose State 78-51 on Jan. 31, held off a second half Hawai’i rally for a four-point (74-70) victory in Honolulu Jan. 24, and out gunned Utah State in Boise 85-77 on Jan. 17. The three close games were not easy wins for the Broncos and were decided for the most part down the stretch in the closing minutes.

Looking at the Boise State Broncos . . .

Entering the week Boise State has gone 18-6 overall, 10-2 in Western Athletic Conference action, and have won 10 consecutive games which is tied for the 11th longest win streak in the nation. The Broncos are currently in second place in the league standings one half game behind Fresno State at 10-1 and a game ahead of Nevada at 9-3 in league play. Boise State has won 13 consecutive games at home dating back to last year which ties for sixth longest home win streak in the NCAA.

Boise State returned three starters and seven letterwinners from last year’s championship team. They also added eight new faces to the squad. After struggling initially going 3-3 early, the Broncos slowly found their way finishing the non-conference slate at 8-4. Included in Boise State’s non-conference results is a 2-1 mark versus the PAC-10 and a 4-0 record against teams that went to postseason tournaments last year. Their two wins over league rival Nevada, who played in the WNIT last year, this season gives the Broncos’ a perfect 6-0 record against 2007 postseason teams (3-0 vs. NCAA Tournament and 3-0 vs. WNIT).

The Broncos opened conference action going 0-2 on the road. Boise State started off with two disappointing conference loses to open league play at Fresno State 73-63 and at New Mexico State 79-65. In both games the Broncos dug themselves a huge hole then battled back only to fade down the stretch. However, Boise State has not lost since going 10-0 with a victory margin of 12.1 points per game during the streak.

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. The duo have both reached the 1,000 career points milestone this season.

Harris starts at the point guard position where she has scored double-figure points in 23-of-24 games and has led the Broncos in scoring 13 times this season and 30 times during her career. She enters this week as the WAC’s leading scorer at 16.6 points per game (NCAA 71st) to go with 4.2 rebounds, 3.6 assists (WAC 2nd), and 2.1 steals (WAC 7th). Harris was also a 2007 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 has led the team in scoring nine times this year and 31 times throughout her career. She is ranked sixth in the WAC for scoring at 14.6 points per game. She has recorded double-digit points in 21-of-24 games during the 2007-08 campaign.

The guards are not the only Broncos having solid years for Boise State. Senior forward Jackie Lee has turned it on in league action averaging of 10.7 points (WAC t-16th) and 5.3 rebounds (WAC 14th) per game. She is approaching the 1,000 career point milestone needing 68 entering this week in order to join teammates Thompson and Harris in the 1,000 point club as the 15th member. Meanwhile, junior forward Jenna Galassi has been a major factor in WAC competition as well averaging 11.2 points (WAC 14th) and 4.3 boards during conference.

Offensively As A Team . . .

Boise State is an up-tempo team who looks to push the ball up the floor with a quick counter attack. The Broncos feature the WAC’s top ranked scoring offense and the nation’s 18th on the year averaging 74.6 points per game on 40.5 percent (WAC 5th) shooting from the floor, 33.7 percent (WAC 3rd) from three-point range, and a league best 71.9 percent from the foul line. In league games the Broncos are averaging 76.2 points (WAC 1st) per game and have scored 80 plus points in six times. Boise State has been held below 70 points only once during league play. They are ranked 21st nationally for three-pointers per game at 7.0 per contest.

Defensively As A Team . . .

Defensively, Boise State allows 68 points per game to rank eighth in the league. Meanwhile, opponents have shot 39.5 percent (WAC 4th) from the court and 31.8 percent (WAC 4th) from long range. Boise State is a +1.6 (WAC 5th) in rebound margin, 40.7 to 39.1 rpg. The Broncos are forcing 19.3 turnovers per game (WAC 3rd) while giving it away 16.7 times per game (WAC 2nd), they are third in the WAC for turnover margin at +2.6.

Lately For The Broncos . . .

Recently, Boise State had one game last week defeating the University of Nevada 80-69 in Reno on Valentine’s Day. The victory was the first in Reno by a WAC team this year and in the process snapped the Wolf Pack’s 10-game home win streak. Tasha Harris led the Broncos over Nevada with a team-high 20 points, while sophomore Ja'Lara Walker recorded her first career double-double with career highs for points and rebounds with 18 and 11 respectively.

Prior to the Nevada win, the Broncos recorded two huge home wins defeating Louisiana Tech 70-54 (Feb. 7) and New Mexico State 83-82 in overtime (Feb.9). Boise State has now recorded a victory over every league member avenging their early losses at Fresno State and NMSU, they also own sweeps of Nevada and Louisiana Tech.


Game 25 Preview: Idaho at Boise State

The Game . . .

Thursday’s meeting with the Vandals in Taco Bell Arena will be the 61st all-time between these arch-rivals. Tip is at 7:00 p.m. (Mountain) on the Boise State campus. The contest features the State’s two rivals in a game for bragging rights. As usual you can throw out the records when it comes to a rivalry game as both teams will give it their all. The last meeting three weeks ago in Moscow is a testament to that when the Broncos rallied down the stretch to win 65-60.

The Last Time (Game 21): Broncos win ugly at Idaho . . .

MOSCOW, Idaho (2/2/08) - It was not pretty but Boise State held off Idaho for a 65-60 win in Moscow. Jessica Thompson and Tasha Harris led the Broncos to the win with 33 combined points including going 17-for-19 from the free-throw line in the second half.

The game was ugly from the opening tip as neither team shot the ball well throughout the 40 minutes of action. As a result, the game between the State’s two arch-rivals was close until the final buzzer sounded. The contest saw 14 lead changes and 12 ties with Boise State’s largest lead being six, 6-0, with 15:19 to play in the first, while Idaho’s was five, 16-11, at the 4:29 mark of the opening period.

The second half was as dysfunctional as the first which ended in a 24-24 tie. Neither team could build much momentum as the largest lead in the second period would be four points until Jessica Thompson hit two free throws in the closing seconds to give the Broncos the five-point victory margin.

In the second half Boise State went to their go to players Jessica Thompson and Tasha Harris to lead them to the win. Harris scored eight points on 8-of-8 shooting from the foul line, while Thompson recorded 16 points including the Broncos’ final eight points in the last 1:07 of the game. The junior shooting guard hit nine-of-11 free throws in the second half.

The free-throw line proved to be the difference in the game as Boise State out scored Idaho 27 to 15 from the charity stripe. The Vandals shot better from the floor hitting 35.1 percent (20-57) from the floor, 23.8 percent (5-21) from beyond the arc, and 88.2 percent (15-17) from the foul line compared to the Broncos 29.8 percent (17-57) from the court, 21.1 percent (4-19) from the arc, and 79.4 percent (27-34) from the free-throw line. Idaho also out rebounded Boise State 44 to 38.

The Series . . .

Thursday’s encounter will be the 61st meeting all-time in the series which the Broncos hold a 34-26 lead. Boise State swept their arch-rivals last season defeating the Vandals 85-55 in Boise (Jan. 27, 2007) followed by a 70-40 win in Moscow (Feb. 7, 2007). They also won game one this season 65-60 in Moscow on Feb. 2.

A Quick Look At Idaho . . .

The Vandals enter the week at 2-22 overall and 1-11 in WAC play. They have lost seven in a row including a pair of road games last week to Fresno State 68-38 on Thursday (Feb. 14) followed by a 68-48 defeat at Hawai’i on Saturday (Feb. 16). The lone WAC win so far was at home when they won in overtime against Utah State by the score of 70-64 on Jan. 19.

Idaho is in its seventh season under the direction of Mike Divilbiss who has accumulated a 80-116 record at the school. The Vandals returned three starters and six letterwinners from last year’s 6-22 team that placed tied for eighth in the conference with a 3-13 mark. The 2007-08 Vandals were picked to place last in this year’s league race by the WAC coaches while the media tabbed them eighth.

Statistically For The Vandals . . .

As a Team: Idaho features the WAC’s ninth ranked scoring offense averaging 52.8 points per game while giving up 67.8 (WAC 6th). They have been shooting 34.8 percent (WAC 9th) from the floor, 24.9 percent from 3-point range (WAC 9th), and 63 percent (WAC 7th) from the free-throw line. Opponents have shot 41.5 percent (WAC 5th) from the court and 33.9 percent (WAC 5th) from the arc. The Vandals are averaging 35.1 boards per game (WAC 7th).

Who to Watch: Idaho is led by Preseason All-WAC Second Team honoree Katie Madison. The sophomore forward averages 13.3 points per game (WAC 8th) along with 6.5 rebounds (WAC 7th). Yinka Olorunnife is second in scoring at 9.4 points (WAC 18th) and a team high 7.3 rebounds per game (WAC 5th).

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