BOISE — The Boise State women’s basketball team wanted to challenge itself in its nonconference schedule.
One test has been passed. A much tougher one is on deck.
Boise State had little trouble with defending Big Sky champion Portland State on Friday, jumping out to a big lead early and beating the Vikings 82-57 in the opening round of the Preseason WNIT.
“It was good to get a Division I team under our belt,” said Riley Lupfer, who led the Broncos with 20 points. “It was a little bit different (than NAIA Lewis-Clark State on Tuesday), they were playing zone the whole time. But it was good to play against really good competition.”
With the win, the Broncos (2-0) host Missouri State, a team that advanced to the Sweet 16 last season, at 2 p.m. on Sunday at ExtraMile Arena in the tournament quarterfinals. The Bears, out of the Missouri Valley Conference, already have a Top-25 win on their resume. Missouri State (2-0) opened the season with a 77-69 win at No. 23 Minnesota on Tuesday before topping Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 79-51 in its Preseason WNIT opener.
Last season the Bears beat ranked DePaul and Iowa State teams in the NCAA Tournament before falling to Stanford.
“We have them in our gym, so it’s going to be a lot of fun to compete against those guys,” said Boise State coach Gordy Presnell. “I have a lot of respect for them, it’s a storied program. They’ve been to a couple Final Fours all those years ago.”
Boise State won 28 games last season and entered the NCAA Tournament ranked 39th in the RPI. But the Broncos still got a No. 13 seed in the tournament and had to open against Oregon State in Corvallis.
The Broncos put together a much tougher schedule this season, including their road in the Preseason WNIT — which could see them face as many as three NCAA Tournament teams from last season.
“It is a big game and we have these games we talk about in our meetings, they follow you the whole season,” said Presnell. “That’s a game it won’t hurt us, but it could really help us if we could compete and get a win against those guys. They’re going to be really good.”
On Friday, Boise State hit 11 3-pointers, including six from Lupfer. That brought her career total to 252 3-pointers, eight shy of Abby Vaughan’s school record of 260. Three other Broncos scored in double figures, with Mallory McGwire scoring 10 and Rachel Bowers and Jade Loville both coming off the bench to score 15 and 14, respectively.
Boise State’s bench finished with 40 points.
“The way we work in practice, we have the starters playing, then we incorporate the bench players, so it simulates the game,” said Bowers. “I think that really helps in the games because we’re kind of used to it and we kind of know what to expect.”
The Broncos took control of the game with a 20-3 run that spanned the first and second quarters, taking a 30-13 lead, then kept building on that lead.
McGwire hit a jumper with 5:23 left in the first quarter to put Boise State ahead 12-10, a lead the Broncos never relinquished. After a layup and 3-pointer by Lupfer, Portland State freshman Belle Frazier hit a 3-pointer to cut Boise State’s lead to 17-13, but the Viking offense went cold from there.
Portland State missed its next 12 field goals and went nearly nine minutes without a single point as Boise State extended its run with 13 straight points.
“I thought we defended pretty well, especially in the second quarter,” Presnell said. “We got a bunch of offensive rebounds, and everything went right in the second quarter and we had a big quarter. It was a 30-point quarter.
Redshirt freshman Maggie Freeman, who missed Tuesday’s opener against Lewis-Clark State with the flu, checked into the game in the second quarter and with her first shot of her college career, hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to give the Broncos a 51-23 lead going into halftime.
“We were all very hyped for her,” Lupfer said. “She was sick for a while, so she’s kind of just getting back into it. That’s just kind of a preview of what she can do.”
Boise State built its lead up to as much as 72-35 in the fourth quarter, before a late push by the Vikings (1-1) got the final margin down to 25.
The Broncos will have plenty of tests throughout the nonconference schedule, including games against Louisville, BYU and Pepperdine, not to mention a possible rematch with Oregon State should they get to the Preseason WNIT championship game.
But with a quick turnaround, right now their entire focus is on the Bears.
“We know they’re a good team,” said Bowers. “But I think we’re going to go into the game on Sunday like it’s any other game. We’re going to have one day to prepare for it, and we’ll prepare for it like any other game.”
NORTHWEST NAZARENE WOMEN FALL IN SEASON OPENER: The Northwest Nazarene women’s basketball team erased an eight-point deficit with just over three minutes to go, but a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Starr Rivera gave Hawaii Pacific a 83-80 win as the Nighthawks dropped their season opener at the GNAC-CCAA Crossover Tournament in Ellensburg, Washington.
Northwest Nazarene trailed 76-68 before Jordan Pinson hit a 3-pointer with 3:05 remaining to spark a 12-4 run by the Nighthawks and Marina Valles made 1 of 2 free throws with 46 seconds left to tie the game at 80.
But the Nighthawks never got the ball back after that, as Hawaii Pacific had two offensive rebounds, setting up Rivera’s game-winner.
Avery Albrecht had 21 points to lead Northwest Nazarene, while Valles scored 15. True freshman Clare Eubanks started for the Nighthawks and scored 12 in her college debut.
Northwest Nazarene will stay in Ellensburg, where it will face Stanislaus State today.