February is upon us, meaning college basketball is one step closer to the most wonderful time of the year: March madness.
Saturday’s games for the Boise State Broncos basketball teams marks the halfway point of conference play. The men currently are tied for third place with UNLV and the women are tied with New Mexico for 1st.
Back-to-back wins have the Boise State men (10-11, 5-3) riding high again. Play has certainly been streaky for this young squad, but they are coming off a 70-68 victory at Colorado State. This marked the first time in six attempts in 2018-19 that the Broncos won a game decided by three points or less.
The Bronco women — after a loss a week ago in Wyoming — responded nicely with a 70-57 win at home against Colorado State. The loss to Wyoming snapped a ten-game winning streak for Boise State (16-3, 7-1).
On paper, the Bronco men face the stiffer test between the two programs, taking on a Nevada Wolf Pack (20-1, 7-1) ranked eighth in the nation. Boise State had a chance to knock off the Wolf Pack at home, leading late before a Cody Martin three-pointer with 4.5 seconds left gave Nevada a 72-71 victory.
The women’s side, however, has seen Nevada (7-12, 3-5) give Boise State fits over the past few seasons. Boise State won earlier this year in Reno, 75-74, behind A’Shanti Coleman’s 18 points. The Broncos lost at home to Nevada last season by four before winning in Reno (by 8 points) and in the Mountain West championship game (by 2).
Boise State Broncos men
Taking on ranked opponents on the road is not something the Boise State program has done well over the years. In fact, they are 0-17 all-time in these situations.
Replicating the close game the Broncos lost in January will be difficult. Nevada is 10-0 at home this season, with their closest conference game on their court a 15-point win over Air Force. (Their other conference home victories were by margins of 23, 39, and 40.)
The Wolf Pack average 80.9 points per game and own five straight victories over the Broncos.
Defense has been a saving grace for a Boise State team that often struggles to score points in stretches. A big player in that regard has been Marcus Dickinson. Dickinson has been a thorn for opposing players. One notable is Wyoming’s Justin James. James is averaging 19.9 points per game, but in two contests against Boise State, thanks in large part to Dickinson, James combined for only 14 points, shooting 3-31 from the field with 9 turnovers.
The Broncos will need another solid defensive effort and contributions from all nine players if they hope to pull off the road upset. When the team gets going and gets solid bench play, they’ve proven to be a threat in this league.
Justinian Jessup, who only scored 8 points against Air Force and 6 against Wyoming, scored 20 in the victory at Colorado State. The junior guard leads the team in scoring at 12.9 points per game and is shooting 40.9 percent from three-point range.
Junior Alex Hobbs has been a force in conference play, averaging 15.7 ppg in Mountain West play. He’s failed to reach double-digits in scoring only once. Hobbs has connected on 50 percent or higher from the field in six of the eight conference games.
Hobbs and Jessup combined to score 36 points in the first go-around against Nevada.
Boise State Broncos women
A deep, balanced team has been the strength of the Boise State women in 2018-19.
Any given night can see a different leading scorer. Coleman, for example, went through a five-game stretch in which she averaged 14.8 points per game. The last two games, however, she’s combined for only 11.
Riley Lupfer leads the team at 12.4 ppg, including dropping 22 against Colorado State. Lupfer knocked down six 3-pointers in this game, one short of her career-high of seven she hit against Washington.
Braydey Hodgins is the only other Bronco averaging in double figures (10 ppg), but seven others average at least 4.8.
Before the loss at Wyoming, Boise State had started to receive votes in the polls. With only three losses, they could start seeing votes again by stringing together another winning streak.
Louisville, who defeated Boise State in November, recently knocked off Connecticut and is ranked third in both the AP and Coaches polls.
- Boise State women vs Nevada. 2/2 at 2 pm (MT) at Taco Bell Arena. Mountain West Network
- Boise State men at Nevada. 2/2 at 4 pm (MT) at Lawlor Events Center. CBS Sports Network