No. 14 Nevada aims for 3-game season sweep of Boise State

According to Nevada coach Eric Musselman, his 14th-ranked Wolf Pack are only halfway to a successful season as they face Boise State on Thursday in quarterfinal game of the Mountain West Conference tournament at Las Vegas.

Musselman said the season is divided into four segments. The nonconference portion of the schedule was the first segment, and conference play is the second. The Mountain West tournament is third, and the NCAA Tournament is the final piece.

What has occurred until now may not be duplicated in the postseason.

"Anything can happen. That's why college basketball's March is awesome," Musselman said. "If this (Mountain West tournament) was a seven-game series, I would take the Pack to win this thing. But it's not a seven-game series. It's one game. It's a 40-minute game instead of an NBA 48-minute game. ... There's upsets every day."

Eighth-seeded Boise State (13-19) is hoping to be the team that can pull off the unexpected and defeat top-seeded Nevada (28-3) after getting swept by the Wolf Pack in the regular season.

"We know how good they are. We know they've got all the pieces," said Boise State coach Leon Rice, whose team beat Colorado State 66-57 in a first-round game Wednesday. "You heard me say that after the last time we played (the Wolf Pack). There's a reason why they're ranked what they are, and we got all the respect in the world for them.

"We're just going to come out and let the fur fly and see where it ends up."

Boise State is counting on its defensive rebounding ability to combat Nevada's suspect offensive rebounding. The Broncos' greatest strength is their defensive rebounding. They grab 78.5 percent of their defensive rebounding possibilities, which ranked 10th in the NCAA through Tuesday.

Nevada was ranked 236th in the nation in offensive rebounds. The Wolf Pack had only six total offensive rebounds in their two games against the Broncos.

Good shooting cures that concern for Nevada, who swept the Broncos while shooting 53.5 percent (61 of 114) in both games combined. The Wolf Pack made 41.5 percent of their 3-point attempts (22 of 53).

Nevada point guard Cody Martin has been especially effective against Boise State, amassing 37 total points with 11 assists and five steals in the two wins. In the first game, Martin hit a game-winning 3-pointer with 4.5 seconds left as Nevada prevailed 72-71 at Boise.

He made 15 of 22 shots against the Broncos, including 3 of 5 from 3-point range.

Boise State will attempt to slow down Martin and Nevada with its methodical style of play. The Broncos were successful with a slow tempo against Colorado State on Wednesday.

"These guys have that mindset to come down here and guard," said Rice, whose team won a MWC tournament game for the first time in four years. "That's who's going to win the tournament -- the team that guards the best. I think these guys had a good approach to it."

In the second game between the teams, Nevada routed Boise State 93-73 in Reno, so the Wolf Pack know they are capable of pushing the pace.

Another potential area of concern for Nevada is its lack of free throws compared to Boise State in the meetings this season. The Broncos made 30 of 42 free throws to Nevada's 21-of-30 performance from the line in the two games.

Boise State guard Derrick Alston, who had 17 points against Colorado State, said playing Nevada is "always fun."

"Yeah, great team and getting up again," Alston said of the Wolf Pack. "I think we play at noon, so just getting up and just getting to play like back when we were kids."

--Field Level Media

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