Gem State rivals will go toe-to-toe in the first round of the WNIT, Boise State to host Idaho State Thursday night ...

GOBRONCOSDOTCOM
GOBRONCOSDOTCOM

GOBRONCOSDOTCOM

The waiting is over, Boise State will host instate rival Idaho State Thursday night in the first round of the Women’s National Invitational Tournament. Both teams have postseason experience having participated in last year’s NCAA Tournament. The winner will advance to the second round and a encounter at TCU (Texas Christian) in Forth Worth, Texas, date and time TBA. Tipoff between the Broncos and Bengals Thursday night is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. (Mountain) at Taco Bell Arena. Tickets went on sale Tuesday morning at 10:00 a.m. at all Select-a-Seat outlets and at the Varsity Athletic Ticket Office.

This is believed to be the first ever head-to-head meeting between two Idaho schools in a national postseason tournament, excluding track & field. Thursday’s encounter will be the second meeting of the year pitting the two rivals against each other. Boise State won the first 78-74 at Idaho State on December 29th in Pocatello, Idaho. The Broncos have won four straight contests over the Bengals, all four have been close and decided by eight points or less. Boise State leads the overall series 42-18 with a 22-7 record in Boise.

Boise State will place their 16-game home win streak on the line when they host Idaho State this week. The Broncos finished the regular season undefeated in Taco Bell Arena going 13-0 to extend their overall home streak to 16 games dating back to Feb. of 2007. The streak is currently tied as the eighth longest active mark in the NCAA.

How They made the Postseason

The Broncos earned the Western Athletic Conference’s automatic bid to the Women’s National Invitational Tournament following Fresno State’s victory over New Mexico State in the WAC Tournament championship game last weekend. That gave the Bulldogs the league’s automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament opening the WNIT bid to the regular season co-champion Broncos. This is the second trip for Boise State to the WNIT all-time. The last appearance for the blue and orange was on March 13, 1998 when they traveled to Baton Rouge, Louisiana to take on the LSU Lady Tigers. Boise State lost that encounter to the Southeastern Conference school by the score of 58-38.

Idaho State made the WNIT field in a similar way that Boise State did. They placed second in the Big Sky race to the University of Montana. After the Lady Griz won the Big Sky Tournament, the league’s automatic WNIT bid went to Idaho State. This is the third trip to this prestigious competition in five years for the Bengals (2004, 2006, and 2008).

Previous Boise State Postseason Tournaments

This bid marks the fifth time that the Broncos have advanced to a postseason tournament and the second consecutive year in a row. Boise State has played in four previous national postseason tournaments prior to this year’s WNIT invite. Unfortunately, they have yet to win a postseason game going 0-5 to date.

In 1975 the Broncos (21-3) advanced to the AIAW national tournament in 1975 as the Northwest Region (District 8) Tournament champion. They lost two games in Harrisonburg, Virginia beginning with an opening round defeat to then national power Wayland Baptist 93-37 followed by a consolation round loss to Kansas State 65-37.

In 1994 Boise State (23-6) was an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. The co-champions of the Big Sky Conference traveled to Seattle, Washington to battle the Washington Huskies of the Pacific-10 Conference. The Broncos fell 89-61 at Hec Edmundson Pavilion in the first round.

1998 saw the last appearance by Boise State (19-11) in the WNIT. They traveled to play Louisiana State in the first round at Baton Rouge, Louisiana. That game went to the Lady Tigers from the Southeastern Conference by 20 points, 58-38.

Last year saw Boise State (24-9) win the WAC regular season and tournament championships to advance to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 13 seasons. The Broncos were sent to Los Angeles, California where they played the #14 George Washington Colonials in the first round. The Broncos battled hard but lost to the Atlantic-10 Conference champions by nine points, 76-67, at USC’s Galen Center.

Last Week at the WAC Tournament

Boise State went to the Western Athletic Conference Tournament in Las Cruces, N.M. as the league’s co-champion and number two seed. They defeated the seventh seed Utah State Aggies in the quarterfinals 61-47 led by Tasha Harris with team highs for points and rebounds on 19 and eight respectively. In the semifinals against the tournament host and number three seed New Mexico State Aggies the floor fell out from underneath the Broncos late in the second half. After running out to a 19-point lead with 12 minutes to play NMSU began to rally and eventually knocked Boise State out of the tournament with a 72-66 victory. That loss snapped a school record tying winning streak of 15 games. Jenna Galassi led Boise State with a team-high 18 points.

Looking at Boise State: Two-Time WAC Champions

Boise State features the league’s top and the nation’s 26th ranked scoring offense averaging 73.3 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.

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 then extended the mark to 23-7 following the WAC Tournament. The 23 wins gives the program its 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 eighth longest active streak in the NCAA Division I.

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 then rattled off a 14-0 record to win the conference championship while averaging 75.1 points per game with a victory margin of 12.9 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 became a solid team during league play with seven of the 10 active players having recorded at least one double-figure point game while four averaged 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, WAC All-Defensive Team, and WAC All-Tournament Team honoree. She has scored double-figure points in 29-of-30 games while leading the Broncos in scoring 15 times this season and 32 times during her career. She enters the game as the WAC’s leading scorer at 16.2 points per game to go with 4.3 rebounds, 3.6 assists (WAC 2nd), and 2.0 steals (WAC 7th).

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 eighth in the WAC for scoring at 13.8 points per game. She has recorded double-digit points in 24-of-29 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. On the season she is averaging 9.4 points (WAC 17th) and 5.1 rebounds (WAC 18th). She is approaching the 1,000 career point milestone needing eight entering Thursday’s 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. Galassi is averaging 7.4 points per game and 3.8 boards on the year.

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 26th on the year averaging 73.3 points per game on 39.9 percent (WAC 6th) shooting from the floor, 32.8 percent (WAC 4th) from 3-point range, and a league best 70.4 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 65.6 points per game to rank sixth in the league. Meanwhile, opponents have shot 38.5 percent (WAC 3rd) from the court and 31.3 percent (WAC 4th) from long range. Boise State is a +1.4 (WAC 4th) in rebound margin, 41.1 to 39.7 rpg. The Broncos are forcing 19.8 turnovers per game (WAC 2nd) while giving it away 16.4 times per game (WAC 3rd), they are second in the WAC for turnover margin at +3.4.

 

Game 31 Preview:  WNIT Idaho State at Boise State
Thursday, March 20 in Boise, Idaho

The Series

Thursday’s encounter will be the second meeting this season and 61st all-time in the series between Idaho State and Boise State. The Broncos lead the series 42-18 all-time and 22-7 in Boise. Boise State won the first meeting of the year 78-74 on the road at Idaho State on Dec. 29. They have also won four straight over the Bengals, all by eight points or less.

Scouting Idaho State

Idaho State enters the game at 20-9 overall. The Bengals finished league action in second place with a 12-4 mark. At last week’s Big Sky Tournament they lost in the semifinals to former Bronco Tricia Bade Binford’s Montana State Bobcats 83-72.

Idaho State is in its sixth season under the direction of Jon Newlee where he has accumulated a 93-81 record. The Bengals returned four starters and eight letterwinners from last year’s 17-14 team that placed second in the conference with a 11-5 mark. They advanced to the first round of the NCAA Tournament where they lost at Stanford. The 2007-08 ISU team was picked to place second in the preseason coaches poll.

Statistically For The Bengals

As a Team: Idaho State features the Big Sky’s top and the nation’s 13th ranked scoring offense on the year averaging 75.2 points per game while giving up 70.9 ppg. They have been shooting 42.2 percent from the floor, 34.6 percent from 3-point range, and a national best 83.7 percent from the free-throw line. Defensively, opponents have shot 42.1 percent from the court and 31.6 percent from the arc. The Bengals are averaging 37.7 boards per game.

Who to Watch: Idaho State is led by two three-time All-Big Sky honorees in seniors Natalie Doma and Andrea Lightfoot. Doma is the Big Sky Player of the Year. She is ranked third nationally in scoring at 25.2 points per game and second in rebounding at 12.2 rpg. Lightfoot is averaging 16.0 ppg and is ranked sixth nationally at the free-throw line hitting 89.8 percent.