Boise State Basketball

Boise State women denied Wyoming a regular-season title. Now they meet in Mountain West opener.

Junior guard Braydey Hodgins and the Boise State women’s basketball team beat Eastern Washington 67-55 on Dec. 7, 2018, at Taco Bell Arena.
Junior guard Braydey Hodgins and the Boise State women’s basketball team beat Eastern Washington 67-55 on Dec. 7, 2018, at Taco Bell Arena.

Gordy Presnell gave his Boise State women’s basketball team a straightforward assessment at the end of practice on Monday.

If the Broncos want to repeat as Mountain West Conference regular-season and tournament champions, the effort in practice simply wasn’t good enough.

“I think Coach P, he always has the right things to tell us, and right now he doesn’t see us ready to play,” Boise State senior Marta Hermida said. “... We needed that from him. This is not a joke. This is our first conference game and they are good. They are very good.”

Boise State (9-2) opens league play at home at 7 p.m. Wednesday against Wyoming (7-2). The Cowgirls and Broncos split their meetings last season, with each team winning on the other’s home court. The Broncos’ 67-63 comeback victory in Laramie last season snatched the regular-season trophy out Wyoming’s hands.

“They’re more than likely hungry,” Boise State junior Braydey Hodgins said. “We took something away from them when we could have easily shut down being down going into the fourth quarter.

“We had that hungry nature last year, and I think that’s what they’re going to bring Wednesday.”

Boise State was chosen as the preseason favorite for the second year in a row in a poll of the league’s 11 coaches and select media members. The Broncos received 19 of 23 first-place votes as they aim for their third consecutive conference tournament title. New Mexico is the only Mountain West team to win three tournament titles in a row, doing so from 2002 to 2004.

UNLV landed in the No. 2 spot and received the remaining four first-place votes, but the Rebels enter conference play with a record of 2-9 as they await the return of their two best players from injuries — seniors Katie Powell (ankle) and Paris Strawther (broken finger). Fresno State (7-4) was picked third, Wyoming fourth and New Mexico (10-1) fifth.

The Lobos have the highest RPI among Mountain West teams, at No. 27, and have won nine straight. The Cowgirls are second at No. 34 and the Broncos are No. 76.

“I think our nonconference schedule all across the board is kind of skewed. We have some teams that are picked pretty high in our conference preseason poll that haven’t really gotten to their potential yet,” Hodgins said. “Usually you find that towards the end of preseason, but sometimes you can get in stride in the middle of conference or the beginning of conference. It’s almost like a new season.

“... I think there’ll be a big fight for first place again. We have a tough title to defend.”

Wyoming is coming off a 77-70 win over South Dakota State — which has an RPI of 33 — and the Cowgirls are one of just two Mountain West teams to win at Taco Bell Arena last season. They beat BSU 66-51 on Jan. 6, 2018.

“I think our league is a very well-coached league, and there’s so many different dimensions to it,” Presnell said. “You have teams that press and are very, very athletic, and then you have teams like Wyoming coming in here that just dice you up if you make a mistake. They kind of counterpunch what you’re trying to do, so it’s hard to prepare every week twice a week, but it’s the fun part, too.”

Boise State’s Mountain West home games

Wednesday: Wyoming, 7 p.m.

Saturday, Jan. 12: San Jose State, 1 p.m.

Wednesday, Jan. 23: Air Force, 7 p.m.

Wednesday, Jan. 30: Colorado State, 7 p.m.

Saturday, Feb. 2: Nevada, 2 p.m.

Wednesday, Feb. 13: Fresno State, 7 p.m.

Saturday, Feb. 16: San Diego State, 2 p.m.

Saturday, March 2: UNLV, 2 p.m.

Monday, March 4: New Mexico, 7 p.m. (Senior Night)

Note: The Mountain West Tournament is March 10-13 in Las Vegas.

Rachel Roberts has been covering sports for the Idaho Statesman since 2005. She attended Northwest Nazarene University and is Boise born and raised.