The opening game in the Mountain West tournament for the Boise State Broncos men’s basketball team will be a rubber match with a familiar foe.
Let’s hope the Broncos have a much-better shooting effort this time around against the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels.
Last Wednesday, Boise State (19-11, 11-7) struggled with their shot much of the game against UNLV. Dejected, frustrated and down 27 at one point, the Broncos closed the gap before ultimately losing 76-66.
The Rebels (17-14, 12-6) also had a nice defensive effort, but it was truly the shooting disparity that did Boise State in. The Broncos shot 31 percent while UNLV knocked down 51 percent. Boise State committed only ten turnovers in the game.
Boise State won the first meeting between the teams, 73-66.
Tip-off for this quarterfinal game in the Mountain West Conference tournament is slated for 3 pm (MT) on Thursday (3/5). The Broncos are hoping to advance past the quarterfinals for the first time since the 2014-15, where they lost in the semifinals to Wyoming.
Boise State Broncos
Senior Justinian Jessup was the most consistent against the Rebels this season, discounting a difficult first half last week. Jessup scored 37 points in the two games, connecting on nine three-pointers. Jessup broke the single-season three-point mark for Boise State and now has 93 on the season.
Jessup scored 15 or more points in 15 of the Broncos conference games this season. He’s second on the team in scoring at 16.1 and was recently named to the media’s Mountain West first-team all conference.
The leading scorer for the Boise State Broncos is Derrick Alston, Jr. Alston is scoring 17.6 ppg and scored 26 points in the first meeting. He had only 11 last week and has combined to shoot 10-29 from the field in the two games.
Alston is best when he’s getting to the free throw line. He was 10-12 the first time around against UNLV and 11-14 in a game against Nevada. In seven games since that Nevada game, however, Alston has only attempted 15 free throws, making 11.
R.J. Williams has 21 points and 23 rebounds in the two games against the Rebels. Williams’ passion and energy have been on full display as of late, averaging 16.7 points and 12 rebounds in his last three games. On the season, Williams averages 11.8 points and 8.6 rebounds on the season.
Abu Kigab is the fourth Bronco averaging in double figures at 11.4 ppg. Kigab has scored over ten only once in his last seven games, a 16-point effort against San Jose State.
On the season, Boise State averages 76.5 points per game while allowing 69.4. The Broncos shoot 45.2 percent from the field, hold a rebounding margin of plus two, and commit 12.5 turnovers per game.
UNLV Runnin’ Rebels
Boise State may have closed the season winning 8 of 11, but the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels have won five straight and six of their last seven. This includes handing the San Diego State Aztecs their only blemish so far, a 66-63 victory in San Diego.
The Rebels are led by Bryce Hamilton, who averages 15.8 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. Hamilton scored ten or more points in every single conference game. He scored 20 or more nine times, including a 35-point game against New Mexico.
Hamilton, who is a Mountain West first-team selection, scored 19 points in the first game against Boise State and 22 in the second.
Amauri Hardy is second on the team in scoring (14.5 ppg) for the Rebels. He is coming off a 24-point game against Boise State last week, shooting 9-13 from the field. Hardy was held to ten points on 3-13 shooting the first time around.
Elijah Mitrou-Long, who averages 12.6 ppg and scored 16 against Boise State in the second meeting, might miss the upcoming game. He suffered a knee contusion against San Jose State last Saturday and his status is unknown for the game against Boise State.
Mitrou-Long also missed 12 games earlier this season, including the first meeting against the Broncos, with a broken thumb.
Cheikh Mbacke Diong leads the Rebels with eight rebounds per game, but collected a grand total of six against Boise State this season.
The Rebels average 72.5 points and allow 70.2. They shoot 43.7 from the field and only 31.9 percent from three-point range. UNLV does average 39.1 rebounds, nearly seven more than their opponents and commit 13.3 turnovers per game.
The winner of this game will advance to Friday’s semifinal, playing the winner of San Diego State vs Fresno State/Air Force.