GAME NOTES: The third game in the opening round of the Mountain West Conference Tournament on Wednesday night has the floundering San Jose State Spartans meeting up with the Boise State Broncos at the Thomas & Mack Center.
San Jose State, the 11th seed, has been down on its luck all season long, particularly in conference play where it won only once in 18 tries. Since ripping off a four-game win streak in December, the only other victory for the Spartans came by a mere two points at Nevada (66-64) in the middle of February.
Like many teams now in the MWC, San Jose State has come over from the Western Athletic Conference and this marks the first year taking part in this tourney.
As for the sixth-seeded Broncos, one of the top offensive teams in the country during the non-conference portion of the schedule, they closed out the regular season with back-to-back overtime defeats, and dropped three of the last four overall as it finished an even 9-9 in conference play.
The Broncos, who are 0-2 in this tournament, have dominated the all-time series, 23-2, with the winner this time around advancing to the quarterfinals on Thursday to face third-seeded Nevada in the late game.
It should not come as a surprise that the Spartans were the lowest-scoring team in the MWC with only 62.9 ppg, shooting a disappointing 37.8 percent from the field, once you recognize that the leading scorer for SJSU was primarily a reserve in Rashad Muhammad (13.2 ppg). The only other double-digit performer for the program was Jaleel Williams (10.9 ppg), also one of the better rebounders for the struggling group with his 5.8 rpg. However, the problem with Williams was his 64.9 percent effort at the free-throw line where the Spartans were outscored by more than 100 points during the regular season.
Anthony Drmic was responsible for 16.7 ppg to pace the Broncos, followed by Derrick Marks with another 14.6 ppg, to go along with a team-high 83 assists and 48 steals. While Drmic managed to knock down 61 3-pointers at a decent 36.1 percent rate, Marks could not keep up the pace with a meager 29.3 percent (17-of-58), but that just meant there were plenty of rebounds up for grabs for Ryan Watkins (11.9 ppg) who was one of a handful of players to complete the regular season averaging a double-double, thanks to a team-high 10.9 rpg. Watkins finished the regular season with 337 rebounds, the most in a season for BSU since the program moved to the Division I level (1970-71).
Maintaining a rapid pace will again be a key to the Boise State attack. As long as the ball keeps moving and the Broncos are able to get off enough shots, in conjunction with playing decent defense, the team should finally get that first win in the MWC Tournament.
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