Boise State Clinches First MWC Championship

The blue and orange confetti which dropped from the rafters after Boise State's game with Fresno State tonight told the story--it was another great Bronco victory in one of the best basketball seasons in school history. But the Broncos earned the post-game celebration with a team effort, unselfish play, great second half shooting, and stiff defense, both last night and throughout the season.

Consider tonight's Senior Night a rousing success.

Boise State completed a remarkable run to a Mountain West Conference regular season championship with a 71-52 win at Taco Bell Arena over Fresno State.  The title enabled the Broncos to register conference championships in both football and basketball in the same school year for the second time in their history as a four-year school, and the first time since becoming a major college in 1996.  The 1975 Boise State football team and the 1975-76 basketball team won Big Sky Conference titles, and the 2015 Boise State football team captured the Mountain West championship last fall en route to its third Fiesta Bowl championship.

Five seniors:  Derrick Marks, Igor Hadziomerovic, Rob Heyer, Joe Hanstad and Jake Ness were honored before the game for their outstanding contributions to Boise State basketball and what they have meant this season to Bronco fans.  Then, it was time to get down to business.

Boise State rolled to a 9-0 lead over Fresno State, the last team to defeat the Broncos.  Coach Leon Rice used his entire team, and it was a complete team effort that got the victory.  Boise State's ever-improving defense was responsible for holding the usually sharpshooting Bulldogs to four points in the first ten minutes.  The Broncos used slicing and dicing from Marks and howitzers (two three-pointers by James Webb III and one by Mikey Thompson) to build a 15-4 lead to that point.

Fresno State, however, is a very talented team that few outside the Mountain West Conference might realize.  When their shots are falling and they get in a rhythm, they are tough to beat.  And tonight, the Bulldogs scratched and clawed their way back to within seven several times.

But on this night, the Broncos were not to be denied in front of a crowd exceeding 11,000.  Once again, it was the Boise State defense that stepped up, holding Fresno State to two points in the final five minutes of the half to go into intermission ahead 29-19.
Hadziomerovic penetrated the paint numerous times at the outset of the second half, finishing either with baskets, free throws, or assists to open teammates, as Boise State went on a 16-2 run.  Another trey from Webb III made it 36-19 two-and-a-half minutes in.  Every time the Bulldogs thought of making a run, Nick Duncan answered with one of three three-pointers in the half.

Despite a 20-point plus lead most of the final half, the Mountain West champions were whistled for more fouls than Fresno State.  This put a damper in the otherwise jubilant occasion.  Rice inserted first Rob Heyer, then Derrick Marks in the final minutes, with the goal being to then substitute for them to give the crowd a chance to acknowledge the seniors.  Both times, though, before Rice could substitute for them, the referees chose to whistle the seniors for their fifth foul.

In what appears to becoming a habit, Webb III finished with another double-double--18 points and 10 rebounds, while Duncan, Marks and Thompson each had 14 points.  Marks also had two steals to tie two-year player Doug Usitalo for third place in career steals with 185.  The talented senior also
vaulted from ninth to fifth on the single-season scoring list with 568 points.

 The Blue and Orange Store Boise State, 14-4 in the Mountain West, will finish the regular season tied with %%MATCH_16%% for first place, and the Broncos earned the #1 seed in next week's tournament.  The Broncos, with 24 overall wins, are one shy of tying the school record set by the 2007-08 Boise State team.

Cezar Guerrero led Fresno State with 11 points and talented Marvelle Harris added 10 for the Bulldogs, 10-8 in conference and 15-16 overall.

It has Bronco fans wondering:  what can this team do for an encore after winning the school's sixth basketball conference championship?  Boise State will begin play in the conference tournament Thursday afternoon at 1 in Las Vegas, Nevada; The Broncos do not know who their opponent will be Thursday, but it will be a talented team--either #8 seed New Mexico or #9 Air Force.

Career Steals:
1.    215 Chris Childs (1985-1989)
2.    196 L'Shard Anderson (2008-2011)
3.    185 Doug Usitalo (1986-1988)

4.    183 Derrick Marks (2011-current)
5.    179 Gerry %%MATCH_18%% (1995-1999)
5.    179 %%MATCH_14%% (2006-2010)

7.    151 Bruce Bolden (1981-1985)
8.    145 Mike Tolman (1992-1993/1995-1998)
9.    138 Roberto Bergersen (1996-1999)
10.  132 Rawn Hayes (1981-1984)
11.  129 %%MATCH_11%% (1992-1995)
12.  125 Kejuan Woods (1998-2001)
13.  107 Lance Vaughn (1989-1993)

Points, Season:
1.    661 %%MATCH_15%% (2007-2008)
2.    644 Roberto Bergersen (1998-1999)
3.    636 %%MATCH_24%% (1970-1971)
4.    582 Roberto Bergersen (1997-1998)
5.    568 Derrick Marks (2014-15)
6.    566 Tanoka Beard (1992-1993)
7.    565 %%MATCH_22%% (2012-2013)
8.    557 Abe Jackson (2001-2002)
9.    530 Steve Connor (1977-1978)
10.  527 L'Shard Anderson (2010-2011)
10.  524 Tanoka Beard (1991-1992)
11.  523 Abe Jackson (2000-2001)
11.  523 %%MATCH_21%% (2004-2005)
14.  521 John Coker (1993-1994)
15.  517 %%MATCH_23%% (2007-2008)
16.  514 Tanoka Beard (1990-1991)
17.  510 Anthony Drmic (2013-2014)
18.  505 Derrick Marks (2013-2014)
19.  504 Derrick Marks (2012-2013)
20.  499 %%MATCH_25%% (2005-2006)

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