Mountain West rankings: No. 1 Boise State faces Nevada Wolf Pack

Boise State guard Derrick Alston Jr. shoots as Colorado State guard Isaiah Stevens defends Wednesday in Fort Collins, Colo.

Boise State guard Derrick Alston Jr. shoots as Colorado State guard Isaiah Stevens defends Wednesday in Fort Collins, Colo. Bethany Baker/The Coloradoan via AP

 How much do the Boise State Broncos hate losing?
“Well, losing sucks,” Boise State coach Leon Rice said after a 78-56 loss to the Colorado State Rams last Wednesday night. “No matter how long it’s been, our guys don’t like it.”
The loss was the Broncos’ first setback in exactly two months, since a 68-58 defeat in the season opener at Houston on Nov. 27. The Broncos had won 13 games in a row.
“You go two months without losing you’d think maybe it would lessen the pain,” Rice said. “But we still feel the same way about it.”
Boise State held onto its No. 1 spot in the Nevada Appeal Mountain West men’s basketball rankings two days later with an 85-77 win over No. 2 Colorado State.
“We treat every game like it’s a championship game,” Boise State’s Derrick Alston said. “That’s our mentality.”
The Broncos (14-2, 10-1) will travel to Reno’s Lawlor Events Center for two games against the No. 6 Nevada Wolf Pack this Friday and Sunday.
Colorado State (12-4, 9-3) got 27 points from David Roddy and 12 points, 10 assists from Isaiah Stevens in beating Boise State last Wednesday. Stevens, who leads the Mountain West at 6.6 assists a game, had 18 assists and 15 turnovers in the two games against Boise State.
The Broncos became the fifth Mountain West team to lose its first conference game this season because of the Rams (after Fresno State, UNLV, San Diego State and Utah State).
Boise State beat Colorado State last Friday despite making just 18-of-30 free throws. Colorado State was 10-of-12 from the line.
No. 3 San Diego State whipped No. 5 Wyoming twice last week, 87-57 and 98-71. Four Aztecs (Jordan Schakel, Terrell Gomez, Matt Mitchell, Lamont Butler) scored from 13-16 points in the 30-point win last Thursday. Mitchell, who is playing with a bulky knee brace because of an injury three weeks ago, scored 26 points on four threes in the 27-point win on Saturday. San Diego State has now won four games in a row to improve to 13-4, 7-3.
“We got contributions from everybody,” Aztecs coach Brian Dutcher said. “I am happy, which is hard to say sometimes as a coach.”
Dutcher was particularly happy about Mitchell’s performance.
“He has a great feel for the game,” Dutcher said. “We are very fortunate to have him in an Aztec uniform.”
Mitchell has seen his minutes increase from 14 to 20 to 29 in his three games back on the floor since injuring his knee. His 26 points are the second most he has scored this season, since his 35 against BYU on Dec. 18.
“I’m trying to get used to (the knee brace),” he said. “But I don’t want to get too used to it because I don’t want to be in the brace for the rest of the year.”
Wyoming (10-7, 4-6), coming off two wins over Nevada the previous week, were taught a lesson by San Diego State.
“Before the (second game) I thanked Coach Dutcher and he asked me, ‘What for?,’” Wyoming coach Jeff Linder said. “I told him, ‘You gave me 40 minutes of what I can show my guys for the next six to nine months of what it looks like on the defensive end of the floor and the habits we will build over time. There is nothing better than for our guys to see what that looks like and what it is all about.”
No. 6 Nevada clobbered UNLV 89-60 to open a two-game series at Lawlor Events Center on Sunday. The second game will be Tuesday.
No. 7 UNLV was without its top scorer, Bryce Hamilton, who has an injured ankle. The Wolf Pack got 17 points from Desmond Cambridge and 15 points and 11 assists from  Grant Sherfield.
Sherfield is now second in the Mountain West in scoring at 18.3 a game and second in assists at 5.8.
UNLV began its week with a 59-56 upset victory over No. 4 Utah State on Monday. The Rebels, though, fell to Utah State two nights later 83-74.
Hamilton scored 14 points against Utah State on Monday but was 1-of-12 from the floor, missing all five of his threes, on Wednesday.
David Jenkins had 14 points for UNLV on Monday and 33 (five threes) on Wednesday. He followed that up with 13 against the Wolf Pack on Sunday.
“David Jenkins is like the microwave,” Utah State coach Craig Smith said. “When he starts making shots he starts throwing them in from all over the place.”
No. 8 Fresno State (7-6, 5-6) won a pair of close games over No. 11 New Mexico (5-11, 1-11), 64-62 in overtime and 65-55. New Mexico has now lost five of its last six games.
Makuach Maluach had 35 points in the two games combined for New Mexico. Junior Ballard had 35 in the two games for Fresno State, including four 3-pointers in each game.
“We wanted to tire them out,” Ballard said. ‘Coach (Fresno State coach Justin Hutson) was talking about, ‘It’s winning time.’ In late game situations we have to be smart with the ball. It was winning time. That was the message.”
No. 9 San Jose State earned its first two-game sweep over a Mountain West opponent since 2017 by beating No. 10 Air Force, 59-58 and 75-62 in Phoenix.
Ralph Agee had 22 points and 14 rebounds and Trey Smith had 21 points on five threes in the 13-point win on Saturday. Smith and Agee each had 15 in the one-point win on Thursday.
Air Force was just 7-of-14 on free throws in the two games combined. A.J. Walker scored 37 points for the Falcons (4-12, 2-10) in the two games.
The Nevada Appeal’s Mountain West men’s basketball rankings:
1. BOISE STATE (14-2, 10-1): Last week: Colorado State 78, Boise State 56 (Jan. 27), Boise State 85, Colorado State 77 (Jan. 29). This week: Boise State at Nevada (Feb. 5, 7).
2. COLORADO STATE (12-4, 9-3): Last week: Colorado State 78, Boise State 56 (Jan. 27), Boise State 85, Colorado State 77 (Jan. 29). This week: Colorado State at Wyoming (Feb. 4, 6).
3. SAN DIEGO STATE (13-4, 7-3): Last week: San Diego State 87, Wyoming 57 (Jan. 28), San Diego State 98, Wyoming 71 (Jan. 30). This week: San Diego State at New Mexico in Lubbock, Texas (Feb. 3, 5).
4. UTAH STATE (13-5, 10-2): Last week: UNLV 59, Utah State 56 (Jan. 25), Utah State 83, UNLV 74 (Jan. 27). This week: Utah State at Fresno State (Feb. 4,6).
5. WYOMING (10-7, 4-6): Last week: San Diego State 87, Wyoming 57 (Jan. 28), San Diego State 98, Wyoming 71 (Jan. 30). This week: Colorado State at Wyoming (Feb. 4, 6).
6. NEVADA (11-7, 6-5): Last week: Nevada 89, UNLV 60 (Jan. 31). This week: UNLV at Nevada (Feb. 2), Boise State at Nevada (Feb. 5, 7).
7. UNLV (6-8, 3-4): Last week: UNLV 59, Utah State 56 (Jan. 25), Utah State 83, UNLV 74 (Jan. 27), Nevada 89, UNLV 60 (Jan. 31). This week: UNLV at Nevada (Feb. 2), Air Force at UNLV (Feb. 6).
8. FRESNO STATE (7-6, 5-6): Last week: Fresno State 64, New Mexico 62 in OT (Jan. 28), Fresno State 65, New Mexico 55 (Jan. 30). This week: Utah State at Fresno State (Feb. 4, 6).
9. SAN JOSE STATE (5-11, 3-9): Last week: San Jose State 59, Air Force 58 (Jan. 28), San Jose State 75, Air Force 62 (Jan. 30). This week: Idle.
10. AIR FORCE (4-12, 2-10): Last week: San Jose State 59, Air Force 58 (Jan. 28), San Jose State 75, Air Force 62 (Jan. 30). This week: Air Force at UNLV (Feb. 6).
11. NEW MEXICO (5-11, 1-11): Last week: Fresno State 64, New Mexico 62 in OT (Jan. 28), Fresno State 65, New Mexico 55 (Jan. 30). This week: San Diego State at New Mexico in Lubbock, Texas (Feb. 3, 5).

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