Balanced Lady Broncos Challenge Host Nevada

It will be the up and coming young Boise State team against the senior-laden Wolf Pack from Nevada when the WAC women's basketball tournament gets underway tomorrow. Boise State has shown they can compete with the host and higher-seeded Nevada squad, even though four starters are out with injuries.

Boise State enters the Western Athletic Conference basketball tournament tomorrow as the #6 seed, while host Nevada comes in as the #3 seed.  Yet Coach Gordy Presnell's Broncos (16-14) and Nevada (16-13) are nearly equal in statistics.

Nevada averages 62.2 points a game, Boise State 61.6.  Nevada allows 60.2 points, Boise State 62.5.  Nevada averages 67.3% from the free-throw line, Boise State 66.8%.  The Wolf Pack women hit 38.4% of their shots to Boise State's  36.7%.  The Bronco women allow opponents to shoot 37.8%, Nevada 38.8%.  Nevada hits 28.9% from three-point territory to 26.6% for Boise State.  One edge Boise State has is on the boards--the Broncos average 41.8 rebounds per game to 36.8 for Nevada.  Nevada averages 12.24 assists to 12.10 for the Broncos. 

Stopping senior Dellena Criner  is the key to winning tomorrow for the Lady Broncos.  Criner is #4 in the WAC in scoring at 14.3 points a game, #1 in assists (4.24 a game), third in free-throw shooting (81.3%), #2 in steals (2.28), sixth in the league in field goal percentage (42.2%) and seventh in three-point shooting (33.7%).  To say that the Broncos must keep an eye (as well as a body or two) on her at all times is an understatement.  Make someone other than Criner beat them.  Nevada's next top scorer, senior Brandi Jones, is all the way back at #25 (8.3 points per game).  Cherlanda Franklin chips in 8.2 points while sophomore Johnna Ward is averaging 7.3. 

Boise State's rash of injuries (eight Broncos have been hurt at some point this season and four stars who started the season are out of action) has forced the Broncos to play team ball.  You never know who's going to get hot and beat you off of this Boise State team.  Marisa Stotler is averaging 9.6 points, Heather Pilcher 9.0, Brittany Moore 8.4, Courtney VanBrocklin 7.4, Jamia Malone 7.1 and Janie Bos 6.9.  You'll likely never find more balanced scoring.

 And yet the numbers above are deceiving.  Stotler has led the Lady Broncos in scoring five times including a high of 21in Boise State's 68-59 win over Portland.  Pilcher has led the team six times including a high of 20 in a tough 62-52 loss to regular season champion Fresno State.  Moore has paced the team in nine games, including a high of 21 in Boise State's 68-60 win over St. Mary's.  VanBrocklin has led the team four times including a high of 19.  Bos has led the team three times including a high of 15.  All Malone has done is lead the team twice with 19 points in two games out of the past nine.  So any of the members of this young but improving team can explode at any time.  What's more--they have yet to peak and are a scary team to face in the postseason.

Janie Bos has taken advantage of increased playing time and is the #4 rebounder in the WAC (6.8).  She'll have to fight off Franklin (6.8) and Shavon Moore (6.1) if Boise State is to win tomorrow. 

It will be tough tomorrow for the defending WAC Champions playing a team that has the home court advantage.  But if this team plays under control and does what their great coach says, they could be one of the teams to beat in the tournament.  Tipoff is 7 p.m. Mountain time.

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