Saturday's game will feature NMSU's star power -- Jahmar Young, Wendell McKines and Jonathan Gibson -- against Boise State's depth. The Broncos go eight deep and get a lot of production from their bench. In NMSU's loss to Nevada, the Aggies did not get a single bench point.
The Broncos also get to play first-place Louisiana Tech on Monday. The Bulldogs have been the WAC's most consistent team this season.
HAWAII 76, BOISE STATE 68: The Broncos ran out of gas in Honolulu despite placing four players in double figures, led by La'Shard Anderson's 18 points. Daequon Montreal (16), Anthony Thomas (13) and Kurt Cunningham (10) helped BSU rally to take a lead after falling behind 21-7, but Hawaii closed out the game by shooting 55 percent in the second half.
--With how close the WAC race is expected to be, Boise State's conference opener likely was a preview of things to come.
The Broncos played a down-to-the-wire game at Fresno State but fell 71-68 to the Bulldogs despite playing one of their best games of the season. The game could have gone either way, but as coach Greg Graham said, "We didn't make enough plays at crunch time."
With the parity in the WAC, that will be the difference.
Although Boise State squandered a chance to steal a road win, a 9-4 non-conference season provided enough positive moments for the Broncos to think that they can be a factor in the league race. They went 9-7 in the WAC a season ago.
Although the team has lost junior college transfer guard Wes Perryman (3.6 points) to injury, the Broncos have added two key juniors to the roster this season -- forward Robert Arnold (10.5 points, 3.6 rebounds) and forward Daequon Montreal (7.8 points, 5.4 rebounds).
Montreal, who has come off the bench all season, scored a career-high 24 against Fresno State in the conference opener.
"I just tried to bring my play up another notch," Montreal told the Idaho Statesman. "We stopped doing the stuff that got us the lead and it got away from us."
--Junior G Wes Perryman will undergo surgery on both ankles because of bone spurs, according to the Idaho Statesman. Perryman, who will miss the rest of the season, averaged 3.6 points in eight games, including two starts. He should be able to gain a medical redshirt, restoring his season of eligibility.
--Junior G La'Shard Anderson had a chance to tie Fresno State, but his 3-pointer from deep on the right wing wasn't close on the final possession. Boise State had wanted to get the ball to Paul Noonan, the team's best 3-point shooter, but couldn't. Anderson is having an effective season, ranking in the WAC's top 10 in assists, free-throw percentage, minutes and steals. He had a career-high five steals against Northwest Nazarene on Dec. 29.
ON THE SPOT: Boise State's 3-point shooting -- something was supposed to be a strength this season -- has been a liability. The Broncos went just 3-of-17 in the loss at Hawaii and are last in the WAC at 30.3 percent.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "He's a good player and hard to guard. He got it going, and we weren't able to stop him." -- Boise State coach Greg Graham, in the Idaho Statesman, on Fresno State's Paul George, who scored 21 points against the Broncos on Jan. 2.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
SEASON RECAP: The nonconference schedule wasn't overly taxing, so there wasn't much to read into a 9-4 record before the conference-opening loss at Fresno State. Boise State established a solid eight-man rotation, with balanced scoring -- five players averaging at least nine points per game. Coach Greg Graham hopes games at Illinois and Wyoming -- both losses -- got his team prepared for the rigors of the WAC road.
PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters -- PG Anthony Thomas, G La'Shard Anderson, SF Robert Arnold, PF Ike Okoye, C Kurt Cunningham. Key Subs -- SF Paul Noonan, F Daequon Montreal, C Zack Moritz
Boise State 58, Montana State 56
Boise State 76, Northwest Nazarene 58
Fresno State 71, Boise State 68
Hawaii 76, Boise State 68
vs. New Mexico State, Saturday, Jan. 9
vs. Louisiana Tech, Monday, Jan. 11
at San Jose State, Thursday, Jan. 14
at Utah State, Saturday, Jan. 16
IN FOCUS: Boise State's main weakness is its 3-point shooting, even though it made a respectable 7 of 20 from behind the arc in the conference-opening loss at Fresno State. Their 30.3 percentage ranks last in the league. It likely won't be easy for Boise State to hit from distance against New Mexico State, an athletic team with length that can clamp down on shooters. The Aggies allowed a good-shooting Utah State team to hit just 3 of 13 from 3-point range in their WAC opener.
--C Kurt Cunningham, who led the WAC in field-goal percentage last season, is is again tops in the conference. He's making 64 percent of his shots.
--G La'Shard Anderson ranks second in the WAC in steals with 2.47 per game.
--G Wes Perryman will miss the rest of the season and have surgery to remove bone spurs from both of his ankles. He will apply and is expected to receive a medical redshirt.