Two years ago in the NCAA tournament, the Boise State women’s basketball team gave the Tennessee Lady Vols all they could handle before ultimately losing 72-61.
On Saturday, the Lady Broncos hope the same effort can be found, albeit with much brighter results.
Boise State will open the 2017 Women’s NCAA Tournament play with a first-round match-up at UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion, facing the 15th-ranked Bruins. Tip-off is scheduled for 4:30 pm (MT) on ESPN2.
The Lady Broncos, winners of the Mountain West thanks to a 66-53 victory over Fresno State, enter the tournament as a 13 seed. Two years ago against Tennessee they were seeded 15th.
— Mountain West (@MountainWest) March 10, 2017
The season has been a streaky one for Boise State. They were quick out of the gates, posting a 12-1 record with their only loss to Washington.
The start of 2017 was not so nice, as an array of injuries and illnesses had the Broncos going 3-6 in January and early February.
Fully healthy and playing with a renewed confidence, Boise State has reeled off ten straight wins. All leading to a school-record 25 wins.
A trio of players who all contributed in the loss two years ago are important factors on this current team, led by senior Brooke Pahukoa.
Pahukoa has been nothing short of spectacular in her time at Boise State. She is currently in eighth place all-time in scoring at the university, with 1,399 points.
She is averaging 13.6 points per game this season while shooting 34.6% from three-point range. Pahukoa also posted 20 or more points in nine games this season.
The senior had 22 points in the game two years against Tennessee.
Senior Yaiza Rodriguez and junior Shalen Shaw will also be keys. Rodriguez is averaging 7.4 points and 5.9 assists this season and had ten assists in the game two years ago.
Shaw, meanwhile, is already putting her name in the Boise State record books. During the Mountain West tourney, she became only the second player in school history to post at least 800 points, 600 rebounds, and 200 assists in her career.
She is averaging 10.3 points and 7.2 rebounds per game this year. As a freshman, she had 10 points and six rebounds in the game against Tennessee.
A freshman who will be counted on in this year’s tournament is Riley Lupfer. Lupfer was the star in the MW semifinals, dropping 15 of her 17 points in the fourth quarter in the Broncos victory over Colorado State. She averaged 7.9 points in her first season and was also named to the all Mountain West freshman team.
Marta Hermida (8.7 ppg) and Marijk Vanderschaaf (10.2 ppg/6.4 rpg) will also be key factors as Boise State tries to knock off UCLA.
This will be the Broncos fourth NCAA tourney appearance; the third under head coach Gordy Presnell. They averaged 69.1 points per game this season, holding opponents to 61.8 on 38.8% shooting.
— Boise State Broncos (@BroncoSports) March 18, 2017
The UCLA Bruins
The Bruins (23-8) placed fourth in the Pac-12 this season and fell to Oregon State in the semi-finals of the conference tournament.
UCLA is led by two juniors, both who bring something different outside of scoring to this scrappy team.
Jordin Canada is the floor general, leading the team with 18 points and 6.5 assists per game. Canada excels off the dribble and, much like Rodriguez, has great floor vision.
Monique Billings does the dirty work inside. She drops 16.8 points per game and collects a team-high 10.7 rebounds. Billings also shoots 46.3% from the field.
Kennedy Burke adds 12.5 points while senior Kari Kover has knocked down 62 threes.
The Bruins average 73.9 points per game and hold opponents to 64. They outrebound opponents by nearly two per game and are a perfect 14-0 at home this season.