Broncos riding high entering WAC Championship

LaShard Anderson leads Boise State over NMSU

Boise State is only one game away from the NCAA Tournament. The Broncos won their final five regular-season conference games - and seven in a row overall - to end the regular season. That hot streak earned them the No. 2 seed in the WAC tournament, which means Boise State got a double-bye into the semifinals, which they put to good use by defeating the New Mexico State Aggies in dominating fashion

Win one game, and the Broncos will earn the league's automatic bid and will be heading to the NCAAs for the first time since 2008.

Boise State ended the regular season with a 66-51 home victory over San Jose State.

"This game was big," guard Wes Perryman told the Idaho Statesman. "We always talk about going into this tournament confident and on a winning streak. We're going in and we just won. We feel good about our team and about ourselves. We're going to let it rip when we get there. "It would have been bad going into that game if we had just lost. Going in when we won feels good."

Boise State turned things around after a 77-49 loss at Utah State on Feb. 5 that was the program's sixth defeat in seven games. But the Broncos, with a veteran team and a defensive pressing style, went back to exceeding expectations, as they were doing earlier in the year.

Boise State emerged from the big pack behind league-leading Utah State to earn that enviable spot in the postseason tournament.

"We feel like we're playing pretty good right now and we want to continue playing pretty good and keep improving," first-year coach Leon Rice told the Idaho Statesman before the final regular-season game. "It's March and we're still talking about improvement. We're on practice No. 119 and these guys still come out and want to improve."

NOTES, QUOTES

--Boise State held San Jose State to 29.1 percent shooting (16 of 55) in its final regular-season game. The Spartans' Adrian Oliver was 8 of 16 from the field, meaning Boise State held the rest of the team to 8 of 39 shooting.

--The Broncos held three of their final four regular-season opponents to less than 60 points. Through the end of the regular season, though, Boise State was last in the WAC in field goal percentage defense -- 45.3 percent.

--Boise State's seven-game winning streak to end the regular season is the program's longest since the 2003-04 squad also won seven in a row.

--Senior G La'Shard Anderson was selected first-team All-WAC, and he also was chosen to the league's all-defensive team. No other Broncos player was mentioned on the conference postseason awards.

BY THE NUMBERS: 15.4 -- Regular-season scoring average for senior G La'Shard Anderson, who led the team. He averaged 21.8 points in the final four games of the regular season.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "College basketball seasons are full of ups and downs and they had the maturity to lift themselves out of the down part and younger teams sometimes don't do that as well." -- Coach Leon Rice, in the Idaho Statesman, on his veteran team that features seven seniors.


STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

GAME PREVIEW:
--vs. Utah State, WAC Finals, Las Vegas, March 12

HOW THEY GOT HERE: Boise State earned the No. 2 season in the WAC tournament with a 10-6 league record, earning a double-bye into the semifinals against No. 3 New Mexico State, who beat No. 6 Nevada to earn a shot at the Broncos. Boise State used superior speed, a stifling defense inside, and sharp outside shooting to run away from the Aggies, earning a shot at the other WAC Aggies.

POSTSEASON OUTLOOK: Boise State is the only team in the WAC that comes close to matching Utah State's experience -- although matching the Aggies' talent is another matter, when those teams meet in the championship game tonight. Utah State won both meetings this season, winning 68-59 and 77-49. But the Broncos are playing their best ball of the season, using pressure defense to lead the WAC in steals (8.8 per game) and to be first in turnover margin (plus 5.43 per game).

FUTURES MARKET: It's odd that a team with seven seniors can get a significant contribution from a true freshman walk-on, but that is what happened with starting G Jeff Elorriaga. He started six of the final seven regular-season games ... and the Broncos won all seven. Elorriaga is one of three true freshmen who are key contributors, the others being starting C Ryan Watkins (5.0 points, 3.5 rebounds) and reserve F Thomas Bropleh (3.8 points, 2.6 rebounds). These three will be even more important next season as Boise State moves to the Mountain West Conference.

PLAYER NOTES

--Senior F Daequon Montreal, an undersized post, led Boise State in rebounding in the regular season. He averaged 5.3 boards per game, which ranked 14th in the WAC.
--Senior G La'Shard Anderson averaged 4.7 assists in the regular season, second in the WAC to New Mexico State's Hernst Laroche (4.8). --Junior F Drew Wiley, a 6-7 wing, has redshirted this season after transferring from Oregon. He averaged 2.2 points in 19 games for the Ducks last season.

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