Thursday, February 5, 2009

Spartans face Boise State on Saturday

How does Boise State Coach Greg Graham do it? It being BSU currently in third place in the WAC with a 5-3 record and a chance to be in a tie for second after the weekend. Graham lost a ton of experience to graduation -- four starting seniors, each of whom averaged 30+ minutes a game -- and yet BSU prospers. His recruiting classes never make headlines and yet the Broncos basketball program does just fine.

Actually, up until last season, the pressure was mounting for Graham to get his basketball program to the level of Boise State football -- a strange expectation considering BSU is a mid-major featuring a gridiron program that has succeeded beyond the expectations of almost everyone. The question is begged: why should the Bronco basketball team face a similar presumption? Plus, Bronco football laid at bit of an egg in the Poinsettia Bowl in late December with a one-point loss to close but lower-ranked Texas Christian.

Anyway, a 107-102 triple overtime win in the WAC tournament finals against New Mexico State last season sent BSU into the Big Dance. This after toppling Utah State and Hawaii in earlier games in the tourney. The Broncos finished what was hoped to be a breakthrough year with a 25-8 record.

As for this season, these same two Spartan-Bronco teams met in Boise on January 8 and it proved to be the one conference game for SJSU that ended with a wide disparity in point totals. Here's our writeup:

Broncos stampede over Spartans

It was 46-28 at the end of 20 minutes as Boise State bolted from a 14-14 tie early on to race pass San Jose State. The Spartans missed a number of chippies inside and the result was a 28-6 points-in-the-paint differential favoring the Broncos at halftime.

The game began as an all-offense effort with both teams shooting well. SJSU opened 5-6 from the floor but then entered a dry 0-12 spell, hence the major deficit. The misses extended to 24 of 27.

San Jose made a mid-second half run to close the difference to six, 56-50, but eight unanswered Bronco points extended the lead back to 15, 64-50. BSU then extended it even further to put the contest on ice, finally winning 84-64.

Justin Graham played aggressively offensively but nobody else stepped forward. He finished with 12 points. Tim Pierce led San Jose State with 14, including 4-7 three-point shooting. Chris Oakes led the team in rebounding with eight.

What was remarkable was at the same time that Boise led 49-36, San Jose State had a 31-18 rebounding advantage and was 10-12 from the foul line.
Boise's record since WAC play began (15-6 overall, 5-3 in league play)

Jan 03 @ Hawai'i 70 - 58 (W)
Jan 08 San Jose State 84 - 64 (W)
Jan 10 Hawai'i 54 - 49 (W)
Jan 15 @ Nevada 63 - 77 (L)
Jan 17 @ Utah State 65 - 79 (L)
Jan 22 New Mexico State 87 - 84 (W)
Jan 24 Louisiana Tech 58 - 53 (W)
Jan 29 @ Idaho 59 - 63 (L)
Feb 01 @ Houston Baptist 85 - 64 (W)

The Bronco Starting Five

Kurt Cunningham 6-9, 235 (9.0 ppg., 4.9 rpg.) -- Big and strong, he's shooting 57% from the floor, plays 22 minutes a game, leads the team in personal fouls

Mark Sanchez 6-7, 235 (8.6 ppg., 6.6 rpg.) -- A sprained ankle has redcued his numbers but he is supposedly healthy now

Paul Noonan 6-7, 210 (9.0 ppg., 3.4 rpg.) -- Loves to shoot from outside but is also now taking shots close to the basket.

Aaron Garner 6-3, 175 (5.1 ppg.)

Anthony Thomas 6-0, 205 (10.4, 41 assists) -- The primary engine that makes Boise go, he hurt the Spartans from outside last game.

Top Reserves

Zack Moritz 6-10, 246

Ike Okoye 6-9, 230 (8.8 ppg., 5.8 rpg. plus team leading 18 blocks)

Sean Imadiyi 6-7, 200

La'Shard Anderson 6-0, 160 (6.9 ppg. and is the point off the bench)

Jamal Greene 6-0, 203 (6.0 ppg.)

As A Team

Boise State's collective numbers aren't eye-popping and are generally equal to those put up by their WAC opponents. What jumps out is the Broncos have taken 50 less foul shots than opposing teams. Turnovers are basically equal, with BSU down by just two in the totals.

The Boise State roster (alphabetical, by position)

Sean Imadiyi F 6-7 200 junior
Ike Okoye F 6-9 230 junior
Paul Noonan F 6-7 210 sophomore
Shawn Rouse F 6-6 187 sophomore
Mark Sanchez F 6-7 235 senior
Tyler Young F 6-8 200 freshman

La'Shard Anderson G 6-0 160 sophomore
Aaron Garner G 6-3 175 senior
Jamar Greene G 6-0 203 senior
Anthony Thomas G 6-0 205 junior

Kurt Cunningham C 6-9 235 junior
Zack Moritz C 6-10 246 sophomore

What Else

*** This is way too simplified but it seems the Boise State squad plays better as a collective than the sum of its parts should allow.

*** Also worth noting is a quote from point guard and team leader Anthony Thomas after the Broncos recently fell to now real rival Idaho: "It was horrible, I didn't want to be a part of the first team to lose to them. I heard that they guaranteed victory today, and they did that. They stormed the court, and it hurt. I will never feel like that again. You can quote it or do what you want - Anthony Thomas will never lose to the Idaho Vandals again as long as he plays here." Let's hope a tape recorder is functioning in the neighborhood of Anthony Thomas if Boise State falls to SJSU Saturday night.

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