Saturday’s Mountain West slate featured a full course of action. Every team except for Wyoming played, and every team has at least one conference game under the belt as we prepare to turn the calendar.
Here’s three takeaways from Saturday’s Mountain West action.
Nevada survives a scare at home
Nevada is one of a few teams in the Mountain West teams that is still clinging to a chance at an at-large bid, as slim as it may be. The Wolfpack can’t really afford any bad losses, especially on their home court against one of the league’s worst teams. That was nearly the case against New Mexico on Saturday night.
Nevada eventually won 77-74, but it was a little bit too close for comfort for a team that is considered to be the favorite in the league. It still goes down as a W in the win column, but it should show that the Wolfpack are vulnerable. Mountain West Wire writer Eli Boettger summed up the night perfectly with this tweet:
Nevada holds off New Mexico by 3 in Reno. Wolf Pack with a major wake-up call moving forward in league play: nothing is going to come easily.— Eli Boettger (@boettger_eli) December 31, 2017
San Diego State and Fresno State bounce back
The Aztecs and Bulldogs entered conference play as two teams that had a chance to compete for the league title. Both teams, however, dropped their opening games and were in danger of starting league play at 0-2 on Saturday. With games against teams from the lower part of the conference, San Diego State and Fresno State both took care of business.
San Diego State returned home after losing on the road to a decent Wyoming team and throttled Utah State, 79-59. One player to keep an eye on moving forward is freshman forward Jalen McDaniels. He’s started the last two games for the Aztecs, and has two double-doubles in his last five games. He had 13 points and eight boards tonight, and it appears that he’s going to play a pivotal role for Brian Dutcher down low for the rest of the season.
Fresno State dropped their opener to Nevada, which is understandable. Rodney Terry and Co. responded by turning a solid defensive performance. The Bulldogs held Air Force under 60 points with a 71-59 win, which was the fifth time they’ve held teams under that mark this season. With Jaron Hopkins returning back from injury, Fresno State has a chance to get off to a strong start with some very winnable games in the next few weeks.
Boise State picks up a huge road win
Both Boise State and UNLV were among those teams with at-large hopes, but it was the Broncos who made a statement last night. Boise State went into Las Vegas and came away with an 83-74 win to spoil UNLV’s league opener.
The win was due in large part to the Broncos’ work on the glass. UNLV came into the game as one of the best rebounding teams in the country with Brandon McCoy and Shakur Juiston, but Boise State had a 48-29 advantage on the boards.
The Broncos came out firing in the second half and outscored UNLV 48-37 in the period. Chandler Hutchison was sensational per usual, and had 32 points and 12 boards on the night. The combination of dominant rebounding and a defensive performance that held the Rebels under 40 percent shooting from the floor gives Boise State a 2-0 start for the third straight year.
UNLV will have ample opportunities to get back on track in the coming weeks. The Rebels have games against San Jose State, Utah State, Air Force, New Mexico and Colorado State in the next two weeks. They could very well be 5-1 heading into a road contest at Fresno State.