Boise State (22-6, 14-2 WAC) opens defense of their Western Athletic Conference Tournament championship from last season when they meet the Utah State Aggies (9-19, 5-11 WAC) in the last game of the quarterfinals on Wednesday night. The game is the second contest of the evening session and will start 30 minutes following the conclusion of the New Mexico State-Hawai’i game which tips at 6:00 p.m. (Mountain). The Bronco-Aggie contest is tentatively scheduled to start at 8:30 p.m. in the Pan American Center at Las Cruces, N.M.
Wednesday’s encounter will be the second-straight meeting with Utah State in seven days for Boise State who closed the regular season at USU last Thursday, March 6, with a 65-57 victory in Logan, Utah to wrap up their second consecutive WAC season championship. Boise State swept the season series winning both games by eight points. The first meeting was in Boise where the Broncos won 85-77 on Jan. 17.
The two-time defending WAC regular season champions enter the tournament as the number two seed after tying for the title with Fresno State and losing the tiebreaker for seeding. However, Boise State is the hottest team in the conference sporting a 14-game win streak entering this week’s tournament. Utah State enters the competition as the number seven seed and losers of three straight including their season finale at home to Idaho 67-55 on Saturday.
Defending WAC Tournament Champions
Boise State won their first ever conference tournament title in history at the 2007 Western Athletic Conference Tournament in Las Cruces, N.M. when they defeated New Mexico State 49-46 in the championship game. The Broncos were forced to rally from nine points, 33-24, down with 14:53 to go in the game to win. Then sophomore point guard Tasha Harris led the Boise State rally with 13 points, 10 in the second half, in the game. The Broncos gained a measure of revenge from the 2006 WAC Tournament when New Mexico State eliminated Boise State in the semifinals by the score of 60-59 in Reno, Nevada.
Boise State entered the 2007 WAC Tournament as the league’s number one seed. They advanced to the WAC championship game by defeating San Jose State 81-64 in the quarterfinals, followed by a come from behind win over Fresno State in the semifinals by the score of 68-59. Jessica Thompson was named the tournament’s MVP while Harris was named to the all-tournament team.
Boise State and Conference Tournaments
If you count this year’s WAC Tournament, Boise State has participated in 20 league tournaments in the last 23 years. The Broncos have advanced to four tournament title games going 1-3 in those contests. Their all-time record in conference tournaments is 13-18. However, the Broncos have fared better in tournament games since joining the WAC in 2001 going 8-5 in the last six championship events.
Prior to the 2001 Big West Tournament, qualification was required to advance to the conference tournament. As a result, Boise State’s first league tournament was in 1988 in the old Mountain West Athletic Conference when they lost to the host school Montana Lady Griz 73-54. Following the 1988 MWAC appearance, the Broncos qualified for 11 of the next 12 conference tournaments missing only the 1991 Big Sky Tournament placing fifth in the league that year. Since 2001, all teams in the league (Big West and WAC) have participated in the postseason competition.
Boise State and The WAC Tournament
In the previous six tournaments the Broncos have gone 8-5 (.615). They have won their first game each year and advanced to the championship game last year where they defeated NMSU 49-46 for the title. The first four years saw Boise State run into top-seeded Louisiana Tech in the quarterfinals losing to the eventual champion each time. In 2006 the Broncos defeated Hawaii 72-63 in the quarterfinals then lost to New Mexico State 60-59 in the semis at Reno, Nev.
Boise State and WAC Tournament Seeding
The Broncos are the number one seed into this year’s WAC Tournament in Las Cruces, New Mexico. It is their highest seed since joining the league six years ago. In the first four years they had to compete in play-in games as the number eight or nine seed. Last year Boise State bypassed the play-in game receiving the number six seed advancing directly to the quarterfinals for the first time.
Bronco All-Time WAC Seeds
2002 - eight of ten teams, record 1-1
2003 - eight of ten teams, record 1-1
2004 - nine of ten teams, record 1-1
2005 - nine of ten teams, record 1-1
2006 - six of nine teams, record 1-1
2007 - one of nine teams, record 3-0
2008 - two of nine teams, record TBD
Looking at Boise State: Two-Time WAC Champions
Boise State features the league’s top and the nation’s 23rd ranked scoring offense averaging 73.9 points per game. They are an up tempo team who is at it’s best pushing the ball up the floor in a wide open attack. During their current 14-game win streak they have been held below 70 points three times and have scored 80 or more six times. Their current win streak is the 6th longest active streak in the NCAA.
Boise State won its second straight conference season title this year going 14-2 in the WAC to tie Fresno State for first. The Broncos finished the regular season 22-6 overall recording the program’s second consecutive 20-win season, first ever back-to-back, and the fifth all-time. Boise State closed their home schedule undefeated for the first time since Taco Bell Arena opened with the 1982-83 season. They went 13-0 at home and currently have an active 16-game win streak in Boise dating back to last year. That home record is ranked tied, with Connecticut, for the fifth longest active 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 Pacific-10 Conference and a 4-0 record against teams that went to postseason tournaments in 2007. Their two wins over league rival Nevada, who played in the WNIT last year, gives the Broncos’ a perfect 6-0 record against 2007 postseason teams (3-0 vs. NCAA Tournament and 3-0 vs. WNIT).
Boise State started conference action with two disappointing conference road defeats 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 14-0 to win the conference championship while averaging 76.1 points per game with a victory margin of 12.8 ppg during the streak.
Boise State is the defending Western Athletic Conference champions after going 12-4 in league play during the 2006-07 campaign. They set a school record for overall wins after finishing 24-9 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 become a solid team during league play with seven of the 10 active players having recorded at least one double-figure point game and four Broncos averaging over 10 points per game. Boise State has arguably the best backcourt combination in the WAC in juniors Tasha Harris and Jessica Thompson. The duo were both preseason and postseason All-WAC honorees and have each reached the 1,000 career points milestone this season.
Tasha Harris starts at the point-guard position where she is a 2008 All-WAC First Team and all-defensive team honoree. She has scored double-figure points in 27-of-28 games while leading the Broncos in scoring 14 times this season and 31 times during her career. She enters the game as the WAC’s leading scorer at 16.3 points per game (NCAA 89th) to go with 4.1 rebounds, 3.7 assists (WAC 2nd), and 2.1 steals (WAC t-5th).
Jessica Thompson was the WAC’s Preseason Player of the Year and is a 2008 All-WAC Second Team honoree, she was a first teamer in 2007. The junior starts at the shooting-guard position where she has led the team in scoring 10 times this year and 32 times throughout her career. She is ranked seventh in the WAC for scoring at 13.9 points per game. She has recorded double-digit points in 23-of-28 games during the 2007-08 campaign.
The Broncos play for the most part a three guard offense with senior Jackie Lee playing the wing (three-guard). She has turned it on during league action averaging of 10.3 points (WAC 16th) and 5.1 rebounds (WAC 20th) per game. She is approaching the 1,000 career point milestone needing 31 entering this game in order to join teammates Thompson and Harris in the 1,000 point club as the 15th member.
Meanwhile, junior forward Jenna Galassi was a major factor in WAC competition as well averaging 10.2 points (WAC t-17th) and 4.4 boards during conference play. Junior reserve guard Jamia Malone is one of the better 3-point shooters for the Broncos during league competition hitting 37.3 percent (25-67) of her attempts to rank fifth in the WAC. She averaged 7.3 points per game in conference games.
Sophomore Ja'Lara Walker moved into a starting role at center on Jan. 28th and has exploded onto the scene for the Broncos. The Merced, Calif. native has recorded three double-doubles and reset her career highs for points and rebounds three times. She recorded the school’s third ever 20/20 game with career highs on 21 points and 23 rebounds against San Jose State. She set the school record for rebounds in a game with the 23 and tied the mark for offensive boards with 11 against SJSU on Feb. 28. In addition, she shot an impressive WAC second best 60.7 percent (54-89) from the floor in league games, while averaging 8.1 points and 6.3 rebounds (WAC 11th).
Offensively As A Team
The Broncos feature the WAC’s top ranked scoring offense and the nation’s 23rd on the year averaging 73.9 points per game on 40.3 percent (WAC 4th) shooting from the floor, 33.3 percent (WAC 4th) from 3-point range, and a league best 70.5 percent from the foul line. In league games, the Broncos averaged 74.6 points (WAC 1st) per game and have scored 80 plus points six times. On the season, they are ranked 23rd nationally for three-pointers per game at 6.9 per contest.
Defensively As A Team
Defensively, Boise State allows 66 points per game to rank sixth in the league. Meanwhile, opponents have shot 38.7 percent (WAC 4th) from the court and 31.7 percent (WAC 4th) from long range. Boise State is a +1.2 (WAC 5th) in rebound margin, 40.9 to 39.7 rpg. The Broncos are forcing 20.3 turnovers per game (WAC 2nd) while giving it away 16.6 times per game (WAC 2nd), they are second in the WAC for turnover margin at +3.6.
Game 29 Preview: Utah State Vs. Boise State in WAC Quarterfinals...
Las Cruces, N.M. at the Pan American Center
March 12, 2008 at 8:30 p.m.
Wednesday’s encounter will be the 16th meeting all-time in the series between Utah State and Boise State. Boise State won both meetings this year by eight points. The first meeting of the year in Boise was a 85-77 victory on Jan.17. The second was last week in Logan, Utah where the Broncos won 65-57 in their regular season finale. Boise State has never lost to Utah State since the Aggies joined the WAC with the 2005-06 season and have a current streak of 10 straight victories over USU.
Boise State won both meetings this season by eight points in the closest season series since the Utah State join the league for the 2005-06 season. Boise State averaged 75 points per game while shooting 40.7 percent from the hardwood, 36.1 percent (13-36) from the arc, and 75.9 percent (41-54) from the free-throw line. Four Broncos averaged double digit points led by Tasha Harris at 18.5 points per game, followed by Jessica Thompson with 12.5 ppg, Jenna Galassi at 10.5 ppg, and Jackie Lee with 10.0 ppg. Harris also led on the glass at 7.0 rebounds per game while Galassi was second at 6.0 rpg.
Utah State averaged 67 points per game behind 38 percent shooting from the court, 29.7 percent (11-37) from 3-point range, and 71.4 percent (25-35) from the charity stripe. The Aggies did out rebound the Broncos in the series with a +1.5 rebound margin or 40 to 38.5 per game. Utah State had three players average double-figure points including Jenny Gross who averaged a double-double against the Broncos on 14.5 points and 10.5 rebounds per game. Jamelah Brown led in scoring averaging 16 ppg and was second on the glass at 7.5 rpg. Taylor Richards was third in scoring at 12.0 ppg.
A Quick Look At Utah State
The Aggies enter the week at 9-19 overall and 5-11 in conference. They finished the conference season in seventh place. The Aggies enter the tournament losers of three straight games beginning with a 62-47 road loss at Louisiana Tech (Feb. 28) followed by two home defeats last week to Boise State and then Idaho on Saturday by the score of 67-55.
Utah State is in its fifth season under head coach Raegan Pebley who has gone 42-97 at the school. The Aggies are also in their fifth year since re-starting the program. They returned three starters and nine letterwinners from last year’s 11-18 team that went 7-9 in conference action to place sixth. This season’s squad was picked to finish seventh in the WAC race by both the league’s coaches and media.
Statistically For The Aggies
As a Team: Offensively, Utah State averages 58.8 points per game to rank seventh in the conference. They have shot 37 percent (WAC 8th) from the floor, 29.4 percent (WAC 8th) from 3-point range, and 70 percent (WAC 2nd) from the free-throw line. Defensively, they have allowed opponents 64.1 points (WAC 2nd) per game while shooting 43 percent (WAC 7th) from the court and 34.6 percent (WAC 7th) from the arc. They lead the league for fewest turnovers per game at 16.1.
Who to Watch: Senior Taylor Richards leads the Aggies in scoring at 10.1 points per game (WAC 14th) and a team third best 4.3 rebounds per game. Jenny Gross is second in scoring at 10 points per game to go with a team-high 5.6 rebounds per game, followed by Danyelle Snelgro at 9.4 ppg and Jamelah Brown at 8.5 ppg and 5.4 rpg.