Just a week ago, the Boise State women's basketball team was poised to make a run at the top of the Western Athletic Conference. Enter three consecutive losses to San Jose State, Fresno State and Hawai'i and the Lady Broncos are back at the bottom of the pack. Thursday night's clash with New Mexico State in Taco Bell Arena is a pivotal game for positioning within the conference. New Mexico State is 7-15 overall and 4-7 in the WAC. Coach Gordy Presnell's Broncos are also 4-7 in league play and are now 12-11 overall. Tipoff between the Bronco and Aggie women is at 7 p.m.
The game will pit the league's top 3-point shooting team, Boise State (36.8%), against the league's #1 defense against long-range shooting, New Mexico State. The Aggies' stingy defense is allowing a paltry 23 percent from behind the arc this season. Whoever wins that battle will win the game.
Freshman Jessica Thompson (5-9, guard) continues to pace Boise State in scoring at 14.1 points a game. She's followed by sophomore Jackie Lee (5-11, forward) at 13.0 and Junior Nadia Begay (5-8, guard) at 12.9 points per contest. Lee is also the Broncos' leading rebounder at 6.9 while Begay (64-159) is one of the top three-point shooters in the WAC.
Center Michelle Hessing's 25 blocks leads the Broncos; she's averaging 5.1 a game. Hessing (6-2, junior), a star at Boise's Capital High School, is the daughter of Della Kunz who was a member of the Bronco women's basketball team from 1971 through 1973. Kunz still co-holds the school record for rebounds in a game with 21 grabbed against Idaho State on Feb. 16, 1973. They are the first mother-daughter combination to ever compete for Boise State athletics in any sport.
Junior Jackie Thompson (5-11, forward) will likely be the other starter--she's averaging just 2.3 points but 5.3 rebounds per game for Presnell.
Junior guard Irma Kmitaite (5-8) is the only Aggie in double figures at 11.8. Kmitaite is just 39-122 (32%) from behind the arc as New Mexico State's chief long bomber, but she shoots 75.5% free throws. Kmitaite leads the team in turnovers with 63. Senior Jenean Ford (6-1, forward) averages 9.4 points and 6.7 rebounds for the Aggies, while Sophomore forward Sherell Neal (6-1) averages 9.3 and 6.3, respectively, and leads the team with 38 steals.
Junior guard Cecilia Russell-Nava (5-8) contributes 8 points a game in the balanced attack while 5-6 sophomore guard Monique Bribiescas hits 5.7 points, mostly on 3-pointers (38-112), and leads the Aggies with 79 assists.
The Broncos have shown promise this season in beating Hawai'i, Nevada and Idaho (the league's 4th, 5th and 6th-place teams just ahead of Boise State). However, inconsistent play, especially on the road, has negated those impressive games and robbed the Broncos of a higher spot in the WAC. On paper, New Mexico State is no match for Boise State, yet they are tied with the Broncos for 7th in the league. With the WAC tournament fast approaching, Coach Presnell's team must use this game as a springboard to get back on track.