This Week in WAC Men's Basketball - Feb. 25
TEXAS STATE’S WRIGHT NAMED WAC PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Texas State’s Joel Wright has been named the Western Athletic Conference Men’s Basketball Player of the Week for the week of Feb. 18-24.
Wright, a junior forward from Brooklyn, N.Y. (Thomas Jefferson HS), scored 27 points, pulled down seven rebounds, dished out six assists, blocked four shots and recorded two steals in a 74-61 BracketBusters road win at Lamar. Wright connected on 12-of-23 shots () from the field and was a perfect 2-for-2 at the free throw line to help Texas State stop a five-game skid and pick up its fourth road win of the season. Wright scored eight straight points for Texas State to end the first half highlighted by a dunk. He added an 11-0 scoring run late in the second half to record his eighth 20-point scoring game of the season.
Other nominees included: Idaho sophomore guard Connor Hill scored 22 points in a win at Idaho State … Denver sophomore guard Brett Olson scored 16 points in a road win at Northern Iowa … New Mexico State junior guard Kevin Aronis scored 11 points in a win over UTEP … UTSA junior forward Jeromie Hill recorded a 16-point, 12-rebound double-double in a win over Nicholls … Utah State junior guard/forward Spencer Butterfield averaged 18.5 points and 10.0 rebounds as the Aggies went 1-1 with a win over Illinois State.
WAC TOURNAMENT RETURNS TO LAS VEGAS
The 2013 WAC Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournament will be held March 12-16 at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas and will include all ten WAC teams. Ticket information and tournament format are available at www.wacbasketball.com
WAC GOES 5-1 IN BRACKETBUSTERS GAMES
The WAC wrapped up Ramada Worldwide BracketBusters play with a 5-1 record. BracketBusters was a two-day men’s college basketball event pitting potential NCAA Championship hopefuls against each other. Denver defeated Northern Iowa 63-57 on the road in one of the 13 featured games.
2013 WAC BracketBuster Games - Saturday, Feb. 23
Denver def. Northern Iowa, 63-57 (ESPN3)
Utah State def. Illinois State, 80-71
UC Irvine def. UT Arlington, 77-70
UTSA def. Nicholls State, 76-58
Idaho def. Idaho State, 75-69
Texas State def. Lamar, 74-61
LOUISIANA TECH ENTERS NATIONAL RANKINGS FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE THE 1984-85 SEASON
For the first time since a 13-week stretch run during the 1984-85 season, the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs cracked the Associate Press Top 25 coming in at 25th in their latest poll release on Monday. LA Tech is coming off a 118-48 defeat of non-conference opponent Central Baptist this past Wednesday to improve to 24-3 on the season and extend its winning streak to 16 games, the longest winning streak in program history. The Bulldogs gained six more points to bump their total to 54 from a week ago, enough to slide into the top 25 for the first time in 28 years. Legendary Bulldog Karl Malone led the 1984-85 team to the school’s first ever top 25 ranking, checking in at No. 20 on Dec. 18, 1984 after opening the season 9-0 which included a win over then No. 6 ranked Louisville. Malone and the Dunkin `Dogs continued to climb in the national rankings that season, reaching as high as No. 7 prior to their run to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament. LA Tech also doubled their point total from 12 to 24 in the USA Today/Coaches Top 25 poll, slotting them at No. 29. The AP Top 25 College Basketball Poll is compiled from votes by 65 sportswriters and broadcasters from across the nation. The USA Today Sports Board of Coaches is made up of 31 head coaches at Division I institutions. All are members of the National Association of Basketball Coaches.
USU LOOKING FOR ITS 14TH STRAIGHT 20-WIN SEASON
Utah State’s next win will be its 20th win this season, marking the 14th-straight year that USU has won at least 20 games in a season. If USU wins its 20th game, it would be one of just six teams in the country to win at least 20 games in each of the past 14 seasons along with Duke, Florida, Gonzaga, Kansas, and Syracuse. Furthermore, it would be the 28th time in school history that USU has won 20 games. Under Morrill, Utah State is 13-4 (.765) when attempting to win its 20th game, while USU is 27-12 (.692) all-time when going for its 20th win of the year.
WAC RPI ON THE RISE
After beginning the season with a conference RPI in the mid-20s, the WAC’s league RPI has risen to No. 13. The WAC is sandwiched between No. 12 Horizon League and No. 14 MAAC. Louisiana Tech holds the league’s top individual RPI at No. 52. New Mexico State is No. 69, while Denver rounds out the top three at No. 76.
WAC TEAMS/PLAYERS AMONG NATIONAL STAT LEADERS
As of Feb. 24, teams from the WAC rank in the top-10 nationally in seven team statistical categories and one individual category. Louisiana Tech ranks second in the nation in win-loss percentage at 88.9 percent. Louisiana Tech also ranks fifth in the nation in turnover margin at 5.3. Idaho’s Connor Hill leads the WAC with the best national ranking. Hill ranks seventh nationally with a 45.0 three point field goal percentage.
WAC TEAM-BY-TEAM NOTES
Denver Pioneers (18-8, 13-2 WAC)
Sitting in second place just 1.5 games behind WAC leader Louisiana Tech, the Pioneers return home to host the final three games of the regular season, beginning with No. 3 New Mexico State on Saturday, March 2 at 4 p.m., which will air live on ESPN3 and Altitude ... Denver’s 63-57 win at Northern Iowa in the Ramada Worldwide BracketBuster on Feb. 23 gave the Pioneers an 8-6 road record for the season, matched the most road wins in DU’s NCAA Division I history, originally set in 1942-43 ... the win was also Denver’s seventh straight and snapped Northern Iowa’s six-game winning streak ... for the second-straight week, sophomore Brett Olson stepped up in crunch time in front of raucous road crowd, scoring six of his team-high 16 points, making one of his three steals and getting one of his two blocks in the final 1:57 against the Panthers, extending a one-point lead to seal the victory.
Idaho Vandals (10-16, 5-10 WAC)
Idaho snapped a four-game losing streak overall and a five-game losing streak in the series against Idaho State with a 75-69 victory over the Bengals in Pocatello ... it was Idaho’s first win at Idaho State since 1996 ... Connor Hill scored a career-high 22 points in Idaho’s BracketBuster win at Idaho State ... he overcame a 1-for-7 first-half 3-point shooting performance by going 5-for-8 in the second half, including a stretch of four consecutive possessions with a 3-pointer during a 15-3 Idaho run early in the second half that gave Idaho the lead for good ... the six 3-pointers made tied a career-high for Hill, and is the most by an Idaho player this season ... Hill’s 22 points top his previous career-high of 21 points earlier this season ... Idaho returns to WAC play this week with games at UTSA and Texas State on Thursday and Saturday, respectively.
Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (24-3, 14-0 WAC)
Louisiana Tech enters the AP Top-25 national poll at No. 25 this week ... it marks the first time since the 1984-85 season that the Bulldogs have been nationally ranked ... LA Tech had seven different players score in double figures in the 118-48 win over Central Baptist last week ... the game marked LA Tech’s lone game of the week ... with the win, the Bulldogs have won 16 straight games, setting a new program record for longest winning streak ... the 118 points was a season-high for the Bulldogs, and the first time they have scored at least 115 points in a game since Feb. 28, 1977 ... the point guard tandem of Kenneth Smith and Alex Hamilton registered a remarkable 20 assists combined with only one turnover between them en route to the 70-point win ... seven players scored in double figures led by Raheem Appleby’s 15 ... LA Tech returns to WAC play this week to hosts Utah State and San Jose State.
New Mexico State Aggies (19-9, 12-3 WAC)
NM State used a late 16-3 run to defeat I-10 rival UTEP, 55-51, Feb. 23 in Las Cruces ... junior guard Kevin Aronis scored a game-high 11 points to lead the Aggies to a season spilt with the Miners ... Aronis scored all 11 points in the second half on 4-of-6 shooting from the field, including a 3-of-5 performance from the 3-point line ... senior forward Bandja Sy was also in double figures with 10 points ... junior forward Renaldo Dixon had eight points and eight rebounds, and freshman center Sim Bhullar ended the night with six points, nine rebounds and three blocked shots in a career-high 37 minutes of action ... with his second rejection of the game, Bhullar set the NM State single-season blocked shots record. He now has 60 blocks in his debut season ... New Mexico State returns to WAC play this week as the team travels to play Denver on Saturday.
San Jose State Spartans (9-16, 3-11 WAC)
San Jose State did not compete last week ... the team last played on Feb. 16, dropping a 62-41 decision to Denver at home ... San Jose State returns to action this week against UT Arlington and Louisiana Tech on the road ... James Kinney led the Spartans in scoring through the first 14 games of the season at 20.6 points per game ... Kinney was suspended for the remainder of the season for violating team rules ... Chris Cunningham currently leads the team in scoring at 10.3 points per game ... Cunningham also leads the team in rebounding at 9.0 boards per game, also good for second in the WAC ... San Jose State has dropped 10 straight games dating back to Jan. 11.
Seattle U Redhawks (7-18, 2-13 WAC)
Seattle University did not play a game over the past week ... the coaching staff, including head coach Cameron Dollar, went on the road recruiting ... Chad Rasmussen moved into 10th place on Seattle U’s all-time list for three-pointers made in a career with 119 ... over the past 10 games, Jarell Flora has stepped up his contribution to the Redhawk lineup, averaging 9.6 points per game as he had earned a spot in the starting lineup in two of the past three games ... Flora has played at least 24 minutes in each of the last seven contests and is coming off a career-high 18-point performance against UT Arlington Feb. 16. The Redhawks’ final three WAC games are on the road, beginning Thursday, Feb. 28, at Texas State, followed by a game Saturday, March 2, at UTSA.
UT Arlington Mavericks (15-10, 9-5 WAC)
UT Arlington went 1-1 last week ... the team defeated Texas-Pan American 63-48 on Wednesday before dropping a 77-70 decision to UC Irvine at home in the BracketBusters game ... Jordan Reves paced the Mavericks with his second double-double in as many games in the win over UTPA ... the senior center scored 14 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, while blocking three shots ... Brandon Edwards added 11 points and 10 boards ... Kevin Butler also scored 11. Jamel Outler scored eight off the bench and had three steals ... in the loss to UC Irvine, Outler scored a career-high 21 points for the Mavericks, reaching double figures for the seventh time ... Edwards had his third consecutive double-double with 16 points and 13 rebounds ... Greg Gainey added 10 points ... UT Arlington returns to WAC play this week as the team hosts San Jose State on Thursday and Utah State on Saturday.
UTSA Roadrunners (7-19, 2-12 WAC)
UTSA has won back-to-back games for the first time since Nov. 11 and 17 … the Roadrunners ran away from former Southland Conference foe Nicholls, 76-58, last Saturday in the 11th annual Ramada WorldWide BracketBusters to secure their first home victory since Nov. 17 against USC Upstate (67-59) … Jeromie Hill posted his third double-double of the season with 16 points — all in the first half — on the strength of a 3-for-4 performance from behind the 3-point line and a season-high 12 rebounds … Kannon Burrage scored 17 to lead UTSA for the 15th time this season … Jeromie Hill now ranks sixth in UTSA history with 556 rebounds and 86 starts, eighth with 425 field goals, ninth with a 6.5 rebounding average and 11th with 1,109 rebounds … UTSA is the only WAC team with three players in the top 10 in scoring: Kannon Burrage (2nd/17.5), Michael Hale III (4th/16.0), Jeromie Hill (9th/12.6).
Texas State Bobcats (8-19, 3-11 WAC)
Texas State defeated Lamar 74-61 to earn its second straight ESPN BracketBusters win in as many years ... the Bobcats were led by junior forward Joel Wright who registered 27 points, seven rebounds, six assists, four blocked shots, and two steals in the ESPN BracketBusters win on the road ... Wright finished 2-of-2 from the free throw line to help Texas State stop a five-game skid and pick up its fourth road win ... Wright scored eight straight points for Texas State to end the first half highlighted by a dunk ... He added an 11-0 scoring run late in the second half to record his eighth 20-point scoring game of the season ... the win was the fourth road win of the season for Texas State, as it halted a five-game losing streak ... Wright earned WAC Player of the Week honors for his effort this week ... the Bobcats return to WAC play this week, hosting Seattle U on Thursday and Idaho on Saturday.
Utah State Aggies (19-6, 9-5 WAC)
Utah State went 1-1 last week ... the team dropped a 70-68 decision at the buzzer at Brigham Young before defeating Illinois State 80-71 in a BracketBusters matchup ... junior Spencer Butterfield had 21 points including two free throws to tie the game at 68-all in the final minute, but BYU’s Craig Cusick scored the winning basket with 0:00.2 remaining following an offensive rebound to lead the Cougars to the win ... Butterfield added 14 rebounds for his sixth double-double in the last eight games, and added five assists Tuesday, as he shot 6-of-16 from the field, 2-of-8 from three-point range and 7-for-8 at the free throw line ... Jarred Shaw led four Aggies in double-figures with 18 points to go along with 11 rebounds as Utah State defeated Illinois State Saturday ... this week, Utah State travels to play Louisiana Tech and UT Arlington.