GAME NOTES: Former members of the Western Athletic Conference find themselves competing against each other in the Mountain West Conference Tournament, as the Nevada Wolf Pack clash with the Boise State Broncos in the quarterfinals of the 15th annual event at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas.
The sixth-seeded Broncos finally picked up their first win in this event after three tries as they demolished San Jose State, 83-52, on Wednesday night in a meeting that wasn't even as close as the final score may indicate. Boise State led by a staggering 46-14 score at the break, and then cruised the rest of the way.
As for the third-seeded Wolf Pack, they actually have an overall record on the season that is below .500 (15-16), yet they delivered wins when it counted the most in league action, putting up a mark of 10-8. Perhaps even more shocking for a team that was quite successful over in the WAC before joining the MWC, they were under .500 at home in 2013-14 as well (7-8).
The squads played twice during the regular season and split the meetings, each winning on the road. The Broncos posted a 74-65 victory at the Lawlor Events Center in Reno on Jan. 14, but then the Pack returned the favor just last week with an 83-81 double-overtime battle at Taco Bell Arena, which means the all- time series now stands at 40-23 in favor of Nevada.
The winner of this late night contest will take on the team that survives the Fresno State/New Mexico clash in the semifinals on Friday.
San Jose State, the team with just a single MWC win in 18 tries this season, didn't stand a chance on Wednesday night as the Broncos put together a staggering 25-0 run to start their meeting and never looked back. Boise State, which led by as many as 42 points in the second half, began with Derrick Marks scoring the first seven points of the matchup, as the guard finished with 17 points before taking a seat on the bench. Because of the blowout and the eventual quick turn-around, the Broncos opted to rest starters as soon as possible, which is why Ryan Watkins was the only other starter in double figures with 14 points in a mere 18 minutes of action.
Reserves Thomas Bropleh and Igor Hadziomerovic accounted for 12 and 10 points, respectively, as the team shot 51.8 percent from the field, held the Spartans to just 28.3 percent from the floor and 4-of-27 behind the 3-point line, all while forcing 17 turnovers.
While it is rare to see talented college players stick around for more than a few years anymore, even more obscure to find performers who are able to start every game of their college careers, but that's what Nevada has in leading scorer Deonte Burton. The star guard, who was named to the All-MWC First Team, not only increased his scoring every season with Nevada, reaching 20.0 ppg in 2013-14 as he started for the 129th time in as many games, he was also one of the top passers in the league with 139 assists. Just the second player in Nevada history to reach the 2,000-point plateau, Burton made sure he had a hand in all facets of the game, including rebounding (4.4 rpg).
Not to be overlooked are Jerry Evans, Jr. (12.5 ppg), Cole Huff (12.3 ppg) and Michael Perez (11.7 ppg), as Nevada generates 72.7 ppg, but at the same time surrenders 73.8 ppg.
Able to rest key players last night, the Broncos are in prime position to serve up some revenge tonight against an opponent that took them beyond the limit last week. As long as BSU can keep tabs on Evans Jr. and Burton, as well as dictate the pace of the meeting, there's no reason to think the Broncos can't advance.
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