For the second time in three weeks, Boise State junior forward James Webb III has been named the Mountain West men’s basketball player of the week.
Webb scored 51 points and pulled down 18 rebounds in two Boise State wins last week. He is averaging 16.3 points and 8.6 rebounds per game this season. For the week ending Dec. 20, Webb also was named player of the week after he had a career-high 31 points against Bradley on that day. Boise State did not play the following week, so Webb has won the award the last two weeks a Bronco would have been eligible.
The Broncos return to action Tuesday on the road at Utah State. The game tips off at 8 p.m. MT, televised on CBS Sports Network.
The first week of Mountain West play is in the books. Here’s a compilation of notes from some of the league’s beat writers:
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Coming into the season, the Broncos (10-4, 1-0) seemed have as many weapons as any Boise State team has ever had, buoyed by the return of fifth-year senior Anthony Drmic. Thus far, it has held true with four players averaging at least 10.5 points per game. The most pleasant surprise has been senior guard Mikey Thompson.
Thompson shot just 28.7 percent in Mountain West play last season, giving the team one less option when its stars faltered. However, 2015-16 has been much different. Thompson is averaging 10.5 ppg and shooting 48.5 percent with a team-high 64 assists. He had 18 points, nine assists, six rebounds, three steals and no turnovers in Saturday's 84-80 win over Colorado State. In that game, junior forward Nick Duncan (11.2 ppg) did not score, but Thompson's effort helped offset it.
"I told the guys after the game, we have a different team this year where it is different guys different nights," coach Leon Rice said. "Last year we had the consistency of roles night in and night out. We knew what Derrick (Marks) was going to do every night; this year it isn’t going to be like that."
This week: at Utah State, 8 p.m. MT Tuesday (CBS Sports Network); vs. Fresno State, 4 p.m. MT Saturday (ROOT)
—Dave Southorn, Idaho Statesman
Fred Richardson III stopped suiting up for games last month and was planning to finish out his college basketball career as a practice player at Colorado State.
Saturday night, the senior not only suited up and played, but he made some significant contributions to the team in an 84-80 loss at Boise State. Richardson, a 6-foot-7 forward, made 4 of 5 shots from the floor, including 2 of 3 from 3-point range, and scored a season-high 10 points. He also pulled down four rebounds and made a steal, diving to take the ball away from Boise State guard Lonnie Jackson and calling a timeout before sliding along the floor, with 6 ½ minutes remaining in the first half.
His energy helped spark a stagnant CSU (8-6, 0-1) that trailed by as many as 16 points, allowing them to close within two five times in the final seven minutes.
“He was terrific,” coach Larry Eustachy said.
Richardson, who is from Houston, played one season apiece at Oregon and Lee College, a junior-college in Texas, before coming to CSU. He averaged 3.0 points and 1.7 rebounds a game as a reserve last season and told Eustachy last month he had lost his will to play the game.
A recent meeting with the coach changed his mind.
“He wants to get into coaching and through some talks of ours I told him that he would really regret not fighting through this wanting to hang it up and just become a coach,” Eustachy said. “It’d be a bad example for his players he’s going to coach down the road.
“So give him all the credit in the world. He found it within himself to start practicing harder and playing. He deserved to play. … I feel like he can help us down the road.”
This week: vs. UNLV, 8 p.m. MT Wednesday (CBS-Sports Network), at San Jose State, 3 p.m. Saturday (TheMW.com)
— Kelly Lyell, Fort Collins Coloradoan
The Wolf Pack won just nine games last season. The team isn’t even halfway through its 2015-16 season, but it has already reached the nine-win mark this season thanks to first-year coach Eric Musselman.
Nevada has made improvements on offense and defense and while it has two freshman starters brought in by Musselman in combo guard Lindsey Drew and power forward Cameron Oliver, much of the improvement has come from the Wolf Pack’s returning players who struggled last season.
Among those players is senior point guard Marqueze Coleman, who averaged 9.4 ppg on 38.3 percent shooting last year. This season, he’s averaging 18.1 ppg on 45.8 percent shooting. Coleman said the fact Nevada has already matched its win total from last season is payoff for its hard work last summer.
“It shows how far we’ve come and how hard we’ve worked in the offseason,” Coleman said. “It’s paying off now. It’s good to see. It’s great to see, actually. When you put in the hard work, you’ll see results.”
Nevada (9-5, 1-1) has been especially good at home, where it’s 6-0. The Wolf Pack’s success at Lawlor Events Center had waned in recent seasons (the team was 7-8 at home last year), but one of Musselman’s pushes this year has been to regain a decisive home-court advantage.
“It’s a pride thing,” forward Elijah Foster said. “People paid to come see us play. This is our job to please them, to please our fans, to please ourselves. This is home and we vowed to never lose here.”
This week: at Fresno State, 8 p.m. MT Wednesday (MWN); at Air Force, Noon MT Saturday (MWN)
– Chris Murray/Reno Gazette-Journal
Well, so much for the Lobos being a team in turmoil.
New Mexico (9-6, 2-0) completed a grueling 21-day stretch of eight games, including trips to Hawaii and Fresno, California, with very mixed results (four wins by an average of 16 points per game, four losses by an average of 14.8 ppg), but seem to be back on the upswing as league play is underway.
The Lobos had two rather dominant wins last week (88-76 vs. Nevada and 77-62 at Fresno State) to open Mountain West play 2-0 for the third consecutive season with Craig Neal as coach. UNM is the only team in the league to start 2-0 in league action the past three seasons, and it’s the program’s first three-season streak of starting 2-0 league games since Gary Colson’s teams did so in 1985-87.
When successful, the Lobos are getting it done with a high-paced offense. The Nevada game had 81 possessions and the Fresno State game had 75. No other MW game in the opening week had more than 74 possessions, according to KenPom.com.
With more possessions come more points, and more turnovers. UNM averaged 22 turnovers per win last week, but overcame that with four players stringing together very effective weeks: Cullen Neal 18.5 points and 4.5 assists; Elijah Brown 18.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists and a perfect 22-of-22 from the free-throw line; Tim Williams 16.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and shot 65 percent; and Obij Aget had two double-doubles, averaging 12.0 points, 10.5 rebounds, 3.0 blocks and shot 70.6 percent.
This week: vs. Utah State, 4 p.m. MT Saturday (ESPN3.com)
-- Geoff Grammer, Albuquerque Journal
SAN JOSE STATE
The Spartans (5-9, 0-2) are certainly consistent if consistently inconsistent qualifies as such. One player will enjoy a plus scoring and rebounding effort each game, but isn't usually joined by any teammates. Plus, that one player generally is never the same each outing. Seniors Frank Rogers and Princeton Onwas often rotate the honor, but even they seem unable to coordinate their timing.
In an 80-71 loss at Utah State to open league play last Wednesday, Rogers scored 23 points, but Onwas had just five and nobody else stepped up. Onwas had 19 points in a 64-57 loss at Air Force last Saturday, but Rogers had 10 on 3 of 9 shooting.
Another glaring weakness is having too few talents who can make plays at critical points.
This week: at San Diego State, 8:30 p.m. MT Wednesday; (ESPN3); vs. Colorado State, 3 p.m. MT Saturday.
— Kevin McCarthy, spartanroundball.com
It took one game to shoot down the notion the Rebels should be favored to win the conference, and not everyone was buying that theory anyway. The positive vibes coach Dave Rice was sending out before the Christmas break proved to be phony optimism after a 69-66 loss to Fresno State on Dec. 30.
“It’s one league game, but a pretty devastating result,” Rice said.
Seven-foot freshman Stephen Zimmerman Jr. returned to action with a double-double (10 points, 10 rebounds) in 34 minutes, but even his performance came with an asterisk. Zimmerman came up one rebound short. He allowed a tip-in of a missed free throw in the final minute that led to the defeat.
Sophomore guard Patrick McCaw is stuck in a slump. UNLV (9-5, 0-1) has dropped three of its past four games, and during the four-game stretch McCaw shot 7-for-24 from the field, including 2-for-13 on 3s, and averaged 5.0 points. He was averaging 19.0 points after seven games in November.
Senior point guard Jerome Seagears is not getting the job done, either. Seagears shot 3-for-10 and had five of the team’s 21 turnovers against Fresno State. A better option at the point might be freshman Jalen Poyser.
The Rebels played with little energy or motivation in their conference opener, continuing a trend of Rice’s past teams. Rice is 0-4 in Fort Collins, his next stop this week.
This week: at Colorado State, 8 p.m. MT Wednesday (CBS Sports Network); at Wyoming, 4 p.m. MT Saturday (CBS Sports Network)
— Matt Youmans, Las Vegas Review-Journal
In the midst of playing three games in seven days, the Aggies begun conference play with a split — a road win at San Jose State (80-71) and a home loss to San Diego State (70-67).
The setback against the Aztecs snapped a streak of 25 straight home wins in league openers. Not since the days in the Big West Conference had Utah State dropped its first conference game in the Spectrum.
Needless to say, the Aggies (9-4, 1-1) were not happy with coming up short at home and also seeing a four-game winning streak halted.
“That game boils down to one column, and that column is second chance points,” coach Tim Duryea said. “We talked about it again and again, but allowing 16 offensive rebounds is just not good enough.”
Unlike against the Spartans, the Aggies had a slow start at the beginning of the second half. San Diego State was able to score 10 straight points and led the rest of the way.
“Our start to the second half was unexplainable,” Duryea said. “We were down three, and we came out as flat as we could be. We gave them a couple baskets defensively without much resistance. I was really disappointed because I thought we were really sub-par defensively. We let them off the hook a little bit, and that’s what's frustrating about the game.”
But that needs to be put behind them as the Aggies play two top-tier MW teams this week.
“We have to have a short memory going into our next game,” guard Chris Smith said. “We need to focus on our next opponent.”
The Aggies also need to refocus on rebounding. Entering MW play, they were plus 4.4 in rebounding. Utah State has been outrebounded in both league contests by a combined 14 boards.
“Rebounding is where we lost to San Diego State,” Smith said.
This week: vs. Boise State, 8 p.m. MT Tuesday (CBS Sports Network); at New Mexico, 4 p.m. MT Saturday (ESPN3).
— Shawn Harrison, The Herald Journal (Logan, Utah)
The Cowboys (7-8, 0-2) were the only MW team to open league play with consecutive road games, and coach Larry Shyatt also pointed out Monday that his squad is the only one in the league to have four of its first six on the road.
Wyoming has lost four in a row — all away from Laramie — but three were by a combined 16 points, and the other was at San Diego State were it closed a 25-7 first-half deficit to four points midway through the second half.
Wyoming is 4-4 this season in games decided by single digits, and despite a roster of 80 percent freshmen and sophomores, coach Larry Shyatt is pleased with how well this squad has competed in every game so far this season.
“What’s striking to me is in all of them we put ourselves in position to win them all, and in 13 of them it was late in the second half,” he said.
“We must keep grinding. We must keep perspective of who we are, who they are and where we want to go.”
Being more consistent late in games is a good starting point, and also at the start of both halves.
In a 71-68 loss at Nevada last Saturday, Wyoming made only five of its first 17 shots over the first 12 minutes. It also allowed Nevada to go on a 13-2 run over the first seven-plus minutes of the second half.
The Cowboys play their next two games at home, and when asked if the next game — against Air Force Wednesday — is a must-win, Shyatt said: “Every game is a must-game, and every game will continue to be as long as we’re at Wyoming.”
This week: vs. Air Force, 7 p.m. MT Wednesday (MW Network online); vs. UNLV, 4 p.m. MT Saturday (CBS Sports Network).
— Robert Gagliardi, Wyoming Tribune Eagle/WyoSports