SCOTT SLANT: Upward mobility returns

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Wednesday, February 12, 2020.

Boise State came out of the tipoff Tuesday night playing lock-down defense and moving the ball well on offense—but couldn’t shoot worth a hoot. The lead over Air Force at the half could have been 20 points, but it was only seven. After the break, though, the Broncos slowly but surely settled in and built a 24-point advantage before winning 74-57. The most settled guy was Derrick Alston, who had made two of his previous 20 shots from the field before nailing a three-pointer in the first minute of the second half. Alston went on to score a slump-breaking 15 points. Justinian Jessup led the Broncos with 18 points, including a four-point play that all but put the game away with just under seven minutes left.

But where would Boise State have been without RJ Williams Tuesday night? When the Broncos were struggling mightily from the field in the first half, Williams kept them in front with a trio of three-point plays in the span of 2½ minutes. Another classic Williams moment came late in the game when he grabbed two offensive rebounds and scored on a put-back. He had 16 points and 12 rebounds, his eighth double-double of the season. You know what’s next: San Diego State, 25-0 and ranked fourth in the nation, Sunday afternoon in ExtraMile Arena. It’s not even Valentine’s Day yet, and the Aztecs have already clinched the Mountain West regular season championship after drilling New Mexico 82-59 Tuesday night.

DOUBLE JEOPARDY FOR BRONCO WOMEN

After frittering away an 11-point fourth-quarter lead to the Mountain West’s last-place team last Saturday, tonight provides a real test of intestinal fortitude for Boise State women’s basketball. The Broncos play at Air Force, the second-to-last team in conference standings at 3-9 (5-18 overall). A loss in this one would be the ultimate indignity. Coach Gordy Presnell has been blunt about his team’s performance lately—his most telling comment following that loss to Utah State was, “We played not to lose, like we’ve done in the past.” Boise State’s only path back to the NCAA Tournament is an upset run through the league tournament in Las Vegas next month.

BOISE STATE’S SHOPPING LIST

A week after National Letter of Intent Day, recruiting season is not over at Boise State, as the Broncos do still have those five scholarships available. A couple may be saved for deserving walk-ons this spring, but a handful of new offers were revealed on Twitter on the evening of signing day alone, and there have been more since. Coach Bryan Harsin has already said he’ll be seeking another quarterback to add to Cade Fennegan. Notably absent from the 2020 recruiting class (so far, anyway) is a running back. Boise State has only four running backs on the roster and could really use more depth there. But the four already aboard are all viable. The Broncos’ top three rushers from 2019, George Holani, Robert Mahone and Andrew Van Buren, are back. So is the No. 4 RB, Danny Smith.

MORE RECRUITING REFLECTION

It’s never really mattered since Boise State has been in the Mountain West, but are the Broncos glad they get UNLV on the blue turf this fall? The Rebels’ new coach, Marcus Arroyo, is one week removed from celebrating a 2020 recruiting class that was ranked ahead of Boise State’s in the Mountain West by Rivals.com and second to the Broncos by 247 Sports. UNLV landed 22 three-star recruits—its previous record was 12. The Rebels have signed 28 players total, and none of them came on the early signing day in December. “You’re looking at about 30 calendar recruiting days that our staff had to put this class together, and that’s a big accomplishment without sacrificing our core values and traits,” said Arroyo last week.

Things are looking up at Idaho, too. The Vandals’ 2020 class was ranked fourth in the Big Sky by 247 Sports, which is fine. But 247 also has Idaho at No. 5 in the FCS (behind Princeton, Eastern Washington, Montana State and Cal Poly) and No. 135 among all FBS and FCS teams. Just for reference, perennial FCS national champion North Dakota State is No. 141. The talk the past week has been centered around the gem of the class (at least in terms of visibility), dual-threat quarrerback Caleb Jordan. He’s a 6-3, 190-pound three-star recruit out of Camas, WA. You’ve gotta trust Jordan’s football IQ—Ivy League schools Brown and Columbia were among the other offers he held.

MORE UNCHARTED TERRITORY FOR SHOLL

Idaho Steelheads goalie Tomas Sholl has broken an ECHL record with his seventh career Goaltender of the Week award. It’s the fourth tme this season he’s been honored. Sholl won both of his starts last week and eclipsed the Steelheads’ ECHL-era mark with his 11th career shutout. He’s tied for the league lead with 21 wins, is tied for second with four shutouts, ranks third with 860 saves, is fourth with a 2.24 goals-against average and is sixth with a .921 save percentage.

BRONCOS’ BASEBALL EXPECTATIONS

Assuming Mountain West baseball coaches can’t vote for their own teams, the conference’s preseason poll released Tuesday tells you all you need to know in Year 1 for Boise State. The Broncos were picked to finish eighth out of the eight teams and received seven votes. That means it’s unanimous. But anything above eighth would be incredible for a team going against programs that have been at the college baseball thing for a long, long time. The Broncos’ 40-year hiatus in the sport ends a week from Friday versus the Texas Longhorns, who are picked to finish fifth in the Big 12 this season.

This Day In Sports…brought to you by GREENWOOD’S SKI HAUS…plenty of reasons to shop locally!

February 12, 2002: Sun Valley ski legend Picabo Street races in her final competitive event—the women’s downhill at the 2002 Winter Olympics. Street had made an impressive comeback from a devastating knee injury in a World Cup crash shortly after her gold medal run in the Super-G at Nagano in 1998. But Picabo finished 16th on the Wildflower course at Park City—then announced her retirement. She won the silver in the 1994 Olympic downhill at Lillehammer.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 FM KTIK. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)

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