There’s one mountain left for Nick Duncan to conquer in the Mountain West.
The Boise State senior has won at nearly every road venue in the conference. He’s 2-1 at San Diego State and 3-1 at Utah State. He even has a win at New Mexico, an arena averaging 11,499 fans per game this season.
But there is one noticeable goose egg on Duncan’s otherwise stellar resume: Fresno State.
The last time Boise State won in Fresno was in February 2013. No current players were on the roster, James Webb III was still at North Idaho College and Boise State had never won at New Mexico, San Diego State, UNLV or Utah State. Anthony Drmic was a true sophomore and scored 28 points in a 72-63 win.
The Broncos did not play there last year but lost the previous two meetings in 2014 and 2015. The 2015 game at the Save Mart Center snapped Boise State’s eight-game conference winning streak.
As fate would have it, Boise State (11-4, 4-0) is currently riding a seven-game winning streak, the most recent an impressive drubbing over preseason favorite San Diego State on Jan. 7. Duncan knows quite well that Saturday afternoon’s meeting between the Broncos and Bulldogs is his last shot at a win in central California.
“That’s definitely in my mind when I’m heading down there,” Duncan said. “The last loss, that was the loss that broke the streak. That’s definitely motivation for this. I’m trying to tell the younger guys how this place is going to be.”
With a win, Duncan would become the first Bronco since John Coker and 11th overall to notch a win at every conference venue. Coker won a game at every arena in the Big Sky from 1992-95.
Fresno State (10-7, 2-3) isn’t the first place that comes to mind when thinking of hostile road environments, and that’s precisely why it’s a tough place to play. Junior Chandler Hutchison, who has won at every venue except Colorado State and Fresno State, said a lack of people in the stands can make it tough to get excited.
The Save Mart Center has a capacity of 15,596; the Bulldogs have averaged 5,947 fans per game.
“It’s just kind of hard to get a rhythm in there without as many people in the crowd,” Hutchison said. “That’s the challenge of athletes. It’s easy to get excited for a successful program, every year, that’s probably going to be on ESPN. It’s the ones where it’s not going to be sold out, and the one that’s probably not going to be the prime time game of the night.”
That being said, Fresno State provides its own set of problems. The defending Mountain West Tournament champions lost the majority of their offense, including 2015-16 Player of the Year Marvelle Harris, but still lead the conference with a 47.7 shooting percentage and average 74 points per game.
Senior guard Paul Watson leads Fresno State in scoring at 14 points per game. Five different players average double-figure points.
“(Head coach) Rodney (Terry) does a great job,” Boise State head coach Leon Rice said. “They’re a really, really talented team.”
Though a potential lack of bodies at the Save Mart Center and another game looming around the corner are perfect excuses for a letdown, the Broncos believe that the circumstances of Saturday’s game are a perfect training exercise going forward.
“That’s just a step we have to take to be a championship team, fighting through that, finding our minds right to be able to focus no matter who we’re playing and who’s watching,” Hutchison said. “We just try to stick to what we’re doing and harp on us.”
Boise State (11-4, 4-0 MW) at Fresno State (10-7, 2-3)
▪ When: 5 p.m. Saturday
▪ Where: Save Mart Center (15,596), Fresno, Calif.
▪ Radio: KBOI 670 AM (Bob Behler and Abe Jackson). Fans can also listen to the game at BroncoSports.com
▪ Broadcast: The game will be streamed live on the Mountain West Network.
▪ Did you know? No player on the Boise State roster has won at the Save Mart Center (the only Mountain West arena where no current Broncos have won). The Broncos did not play there last season and lost meetings in 2014 and 2015.
Boise State women hope to end two-game slide
Fresh off losses to UNLV and San Diego State, the Broncos (12-3, 2-3) look to get back on track against Fresno State at 2 p.m. on Saturday at Taco Bell Arena. Boise State currently sits in sixth place in the Mountain West standings.
The Bulldogs (10-6, 3-2) are led in scoring by Bego Faz Davalos and Candice White, who average 14.7 and 14 points per game, respectively. Fresno State has won its past two games over San Jose State and Air Force by an average of 18.5 points.