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SCOTT SLANT: Frustration near the Strip

Presented by the ASHLEY INN OF CASCADE.
Thursday, February 27, 2020.

This was a game Boise State needed, but it’s a helpless feeling when the ball won’t go in the hoop. The Broncos made only seven first-half field goals, and that essentially was enough to allow UNLV to keep them at bay at the end in a 76-66 loss at the Thomas & Mack Center Wednesday night. Boise State’s defense was okay before halftime, but then it went south, and the Broncos trailed by 27 points. To their credit, they got the lead down to seven in the final minute, but there was too much futility to overcome. Boise State shot less than 32 percent on the night. The Broncos are stuck with the No. 4 or 5 seed next week at the Mountain West Tournament—and they’ll probably draw the Rebels next Thursday. It was an ugly way to end the regular season.

THE STARS CAME OUT LATE

Boise State’s chances of winning decrease exponentially when neither Justinian Jessup nor Derrick Alston are scoring. They combined to go 1-for-8 in the first half. Jessup’s first points didn’t materialize until midway through the second half on three free throws. His first basket came with just over seven minutes left in the game. Lo and behold, he finished with four three-pointers and 19 points, with his late surge making the final score respectable. The last of the treys gave him Boise State’s single-season record, breaking the mark held for the past 18 years by Broncos radio analyst Abe Jackson. Alston managed 11 points and made some plays down the stretch, but he was just 3-for-10 from the field.

RJ Williams, he of the 27 points and 17 rebounds last Sunday, picked up his third foul of the game with 1:36 left in the first half, but he kept on playing, as he was the only effective player Boise State had inside. Despite going 3-for-10 from the field and missing five free throws, Williams still posted a double-double with 10 points and 13 rebounds. Then he picked up his fifth foul with eight minutes remaining in the game. Williams was injured on the play and was helped off the floor.

HONESTY ON THE SCALES

Things get serious now at the NFL Combine. Former Boise State star John Hightower will be on the field today with the wide receivers , while outside linebacker Curtis Weaver and offensive linemen Ezra Cleveland and John Molchon are gearing up for their on-field testing the new couple of days. Weight measurements for those last three were interesting. College programs are notorious for generous numbers, especially with linemen. But kudos to the Broncos, I guess. Weaver tipped the scales at 265 pounds, his exact weight on the Boise State roster last fall. Cleveland was 311 pounds, up one. And Molchon was actually down nine pounds, from 318 on the roster to 309 at the Combine.

COMING IN DECEMBER

The new bowl home for the Mountain West football champion is official now, as LA Bowl was unveiled Wednesday by SoFi Stadium and Hollywood Park. The stadium, of course, is the new home of the Rams and Chargers, and Hollywood Park is the adjacent new entertainment district. It’s not “the” LA Bowl, just LA Bowl. The game replaces the Las Vegas Bowl as the conference’s top postseason game. The opponent will be the No. 5 pick out of the Pac-12 (it was No. 6 in Vegas). The exact date in December is still to be determined, but it’s a six-year deal that goes through 2025. Now, how many fans can LA Bowl attract to that 70,000-seat facility?

STEELIES SURVIVE IN A SHOOTOUT

The Idaho Steelheads’ Brett Supinski picked up where he left off last weekend, scoring just over three minutes into the game against Utah Wednesday night. That gave the Steelheads the lead. From there they lost it, got it back, lost it, got it back, and lost it again when the Grizzlies tied the game 3-3 with just 55 seconds left in the third period. It would have been a discouraging loss, but the Steelies won it 4-3 when A.J. White and Supinski connected on their first two tries in the shootout There was a flurry of transactions earlier in the day, with one of them bringing goalie Colton Point back from the AHL’s Texas Stars. Point got the start and made 35 saves in the victory.

YOTES CORRAL CORBAN IN CCC QUARTERS

College of Idaho beat Corban last Saturday 69-54 in Salem. Wednesday night the Coyotes turned right around and played the Warriors again in the quarterfinals of the Cascade Conference Tournament in Caldwell. It was easier at home, as the Yotes cruised past Corban 85-67 in a game they led at one point by 26 points. Ten C of I players scored at least six points, led by Ricardo Time’s 15. The Yotes shot an uncharacteristic 41 percent from the field, but they held the Warriors to 31 percent. The win sends the Yotes into the CCC semifinals against Eastern Oregon Saturday night in the J.A. Albertson Activities Center.

STEP TOWARD STABILITY IN MOSCOW

Zac Claus oversees his first game as Idaho’s full-time men’s basketball coach tonight when the Vandals visit Northern Colorado. Claus had the “interim” tag lifted Tuesday by Idaho athletic director Terry Gawlik after navigating the team through difficult times following Don Verlin’s firing last July. So Gawlik has been understanding about the Vandals’ record, which is currently 7-20 overall and 3-13 in the Big Sky. They were a dismal 5-27 in Verlin’s final season. Claus spent 10 years on the Nevada staff before heading to Moscow, the first four under current Cal coach Mark Fox. “Zac Claus is a shining example of what college basketball and student-athletes need,” Fox said in a release. “Idaho has selected a true leader and a coach with the basketball experience to forge a great future ahead.”

IS THERE A ‘W’ IN THE OFFING?

The 40-year home field hiatus ends Friday night for the revived Boise State baseball program, as the Broncos host Northern Colorado at Memorial Stadium. It’s the first of a four-game weekend series, and chances are good that Boise State will experience its first victory before the sun sets Sunday. Here’s what you have to like about the opening series at Texas: the Broncos’ pitching staff allowed only four runs through the first seven innings in the pressurized debut last Friday and yielded 15 earned runs in three games against the No. 22 team in the country. The Broncos also committed only three errors, with two of them coming in the 10-inning series finale on Sunday.

This Day In Sports…brought to you by BBSI BOISE…we’re payroll, we’re risk, we’re HR, we’re business!

February 27, 2016: One of the best late-game comebacks in Boise State history, as the Broncos rally from a nine-point deficit with just over a minute left to defeat San Diego State, 66-63. Six made free throws and two Nick Duncan three-pointers accounted for a 12-0 run to end it. The Aztecs had won 164 consecutive games when leading with five minutes to go, and they led at the five-minute mark in this one. It was one of the most amazing streaks in sports, and it had lasted more than six years. The Broncos also became the first Mountain West team to win back-to-back games at Viejas Arena since BYU did it in 2010 and 2011.

(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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SCOTT SLANT: The timing at Thomas & Mack

Presented by WESTERN SIDING.
Wednesday, February 26, 2020.

Boise State is not exactly catching UNLV at the right time as it ventures into the Thomas & Mack Center tonight. In terms of knocking off a ranked opponent on the road, the upset of No. 4 San Diego State last Saturday was the Rebels’ biggest in 29 years, since they beat No. 2 Arkansas in 1991 (when UNLV was the nation’s top-ranked team). The bigger picture: the Rebels have won three games in a row and four of their last five as they gear up for next week’s Mountain West Tournament on their home floor. UNLV also boasts Bryce Hamilton, the reigning conference Player of the Week. Hamilton led the Rebels with 19 points at ExtraMile Arena last month when the Broncos won 73-66. On the other hand, UNLV isn’t exactly catching Boise State at the right time.

THE QUEST FOR 20 WINS, REVISITED

Today, for the second time, I rewind to the day before Boise State’s first game against Utah State last month, if only to show how far the Broncos have come. At that time they were 11-8 and had lost three of their previous four games. I talked about what a tall task it was going to be to get back to a 20-win season after a year off. With a guaranteed 12 games remaining (including the first round of the Mountain Tournament), Boise State was going to have to go 9-3 the rest of the way. An unlikely upset of the Aggies was almost a must, but the unlikeliest of rallies the following night accomplished just that. The Broncos have gone 8-2 so far during the stretch run, and 20 is now staring them in the face.

THANKS A LOT, AZTECS

San Diego State canned a three-pointer just 10 seconds into its game against Colorado State Tuesday night—and drained a couple more before two minutes were gone. Game over, right? Not so fast, my friend. After trailing 11-2, CSU went on a 12-0 run and led for the rest of the half. The game see-sawed in the second half—then the Rams led by seven again with less than eight minutes left. That’s when fifth-ranked SDSU went on a 13-0 run down the stretch and escaped by the skin of its teeth, 66-60, to improve to 27-1. Malachi Flynn went 0-fer from the field in the first half but finally caught fire and scored 17 points. Bottom line: that Aztecs’ win clinches a first-round bye for Boise State in the Mountain West Tournament.

BACHMEIER’S TURF-STAINED JERSEY

ESPN.com’s Mark Schlabach has updated his Way-Too-Early Top 25 now that the coaching carousel appears to have ground to a halt. He drops Boise State one spot to No. 19, with his latest synopsis: “After going unbeaten in MWC play for the first time and claiming another league title in 2019, the Broncos head into spring drills with a couple of big goals: replacing four starting offensive linemen and keeping quarterback Hank Bachmeier upright. Bachmeier won seven of his eight starts as a freshman, but he took far too many hits. Part of the issue was that he held onto the ball for too long, much like a lot of freshmen. The Broncos bring back 1,000-yard rusher George Holani and budding receiver Khalil Shakir, so they’ll have plenty of firepower on offense.” Love the line on Shakir. “Budding?” I’ll say.

KELLEN DOES COMMAND SOME RESPECT

This one may have passed you by. It did me. But two weeks ago, FootballOutsiders.com revealed its 2019 NFL awards as voted on by fans. And in the race for Coordinator of the Year, Dallas offensive coordinator Kellen Moore finished fourth behind Baltimore OC Greg Roman, San Francisco DC Robert Saleh and Pittsburgh DC Keith Butler. Granted, Roman received 67 percent of the vote and Moore three percent, but the former Boise State great is still fourth out of 64 candidates. If there are still naysayers inside the Cowboys fan cocoon, there seems be be fewer outside of it.

THE SECOND-PLACE SITUATION

The Allen Americans are running away with the ECHL’s Mountain Division, but there’s a battle for the No. 2 divisional seed in the Kelly Cup Playoffs six weeks from now. The two contenders, the Idaho Steelheads and Utah Grizzlies, begin a pivotal three-game series tonight in CenturyLink Arena. Utah holds a five-point lead over Idaho, but the Steelheads have won five straight games on home ice. Brett Supinski has been a catalyst. He tallied four goals last week and has scored points in seven straight contests. Supinski leads Steelies rookies in scoring this season with 31 points.

THE YOTES POPULATE, AND THEY PREVAIL

It doesn’t matter who College of Idaho plays at the J.A. Albertson Activities Center. The Coyotes usually win, and they usually draw. In the past seven seasons, the Yotes are 107-12 at home, including a 15-1 home mark this season. C of I averages 1,459 fans per game, second in the NAIA and ahead of 107 NCAA Division I programs. They’d rank fifth in the Big Sky right now, ahead of both Idaho State (1,246) and Idaho (1,031). Caldwell promises to be rockin’ again tonight as the nation’s No. 1 NAIA Division II team hosts Corban to open the Cascade Conference Tournament.

BASEBALL WEATHER: KNOCK ON WOOD

If Boise is an “event town,” well, there’s an event Friday night at Memorial Stadium. Boise State plays its first home baseball game in 40 years when Northern Colorado visits for the first of a four-game set. Everything seems to be coming together for a good turnout, as the forecast says sunny with a high of 61 Friday. Just like a perfect October day for football. Don’t we all want to say we were there for the Grand Re-Opening in 2020? Speaking of October, one Bronco had a particularly good experience on the Boise Hawks’ home field last fall. Shortstop Cole Posey hit three home runs in the team’s two sneak-preview exhibition games.

This Day In Sports…brought to you by VETERANS PLUMBING…eliminate your drips and drops!

February 26, 1972: Boise State forward Steve Wallace ties the school single-game record for rebounds with 22 boards in the Broncos’ 94-63 win over Montana. The 22 rebounds is a Boise State record to this day, shared by Bill Otey, who did it twice in 1968-69. Wallace averaged a double-double for the season—that wouldn’t happen again at Boise State for 42 years, until Ryan Watkins did it in 2013-14. Wallace is still second behind Otey in Bronco career rebounding, averaging 10.4 boards per game.

(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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SCOTT SLANT: RJ’s upward climb in conference

Presented by THE ASHLEY INN OF CASCADE.
Tuesday, February 25, 2020.

As RJ Williams’ two-year Boise State career winds down, one of the stories that needs to be told is of his improvement in Mountain West play this year. Last season, Williams got off to a solid start in non-conference play, averaging 12.7 points and 6.1 rebounds. But in conference action last winter, he slipped to 6.3 points and 2.6 boards per game. In the Mountain West this season, Williams is up to 11.1 points and an impressive 8.2 rebounds per outing. He is, of course, coming off his 27-point, 17-board performance on Senior Day versus New Mexico. And Williams’ improvement at the free throw line has made a big difference—from 62 percent in MW action a year ago to 75 percent this season. All hail RJ.

UPS AND DOWNS AT THE TURNSTILES

There’s been some consternation over the crowd at Boise State’s Senior Day win over New Mexico Sunday. Attendance was 5,809. Could have been partly because it was such a nice day before the wind warnings came in. Still below expectations, though. It got me to thinking. I was reading a Seattle Times story on new football coach Nick Rolovich’s first day on campus at Washington State a while back. He and his wife attended the Cougars’ 70-61 basketball upset of No. 8 Oregon that evening in Beasley Coliseum. “Rolovich pumped his fist whenever the Cougars got a defensive stop, he rose to his feet when they buried a three-pointer and, most of all, he blended in with the crowd of 3,082 like he was just another fan,” wrote Theo Lawson. Wait—3,082? For the No. 8 team in the country? It’s all relative.

AZTECS CATCH A BREAK IN THE POLLS

San Diego State didn’t pay too much of a penalty in the rankings for seeing its undefeated season torpedoed Saturday night. The Aztecs dropped just one spot in both polls Monday after their 66-63 loss to UNLV, which came into the game 14-14. Voters cut San Diego State some slack. Should the NCAA Tournament committee take stock in the rankings, some would say SDSU is in a better position as a second seed in the NCAA Tournament, allowing them to avoid being shipped back East as a No. 1. The Aztecs are right back in action tonight—and probably champing at the bit—hosting Colorado State in Viejas Arena. An SDSU win guarantees Boise State a top five seed and a first-round bye in the Mountain West Tournament.

REFLECTING ON NOVEMBER 20

Is there any doubt now that Boise State’s best win of the season was the 72-68 overtime victory over BYU in ExtraMile Arena back in November? It was the Cougars who topped Gonzaga 91-78 Saturday night in Provo, and they’ve jumped to No. 17 in the AP Poll and No. 18 in the Coaches Poll. True, BYU was without Yoeli Childs against the Broncos, but it was a quality win nonetheless. And hey, Boise State didn’t have Abu Kigab available yet (not that he’s at Childs’ level, but he’s been a key addition). One win does not a successful season make, though. The next two weeks will tell the tale.

SENIOR NIGHT ANNIHILATION

UNLV tried to stay with the Boise State women Monday on Senior Night in ExtraMile Arena, but it wasn’t to be. The seniors went off, and the Broncos riddled the Rebels 81-52. A’Shanti Coleman’s final home game marked her third straight 20-point performance—she matched her career-high with 22. Coleman also pulled down 10 rebounds. The other senior hot hand belonged to Riley Lupfer, whose 18 points included five more three-pointers. Feeding the shooters, as usual, was Jayde Christopher with eight more assists. With the victory, Boise State has clinched the No. 2 seed next week in the Mountain West Tournament. The Broncos have won five games in a row and seven of their last eight.

CALHOUN STILL IN CHARGE IN COLORADO SPRINGS

Boise State will have the pleasure of meeting Troy Calhoun again when the Broncos visit Air Force this fall. Late last week Calhoun was mentioned as one of two finalists for the Colorado head coaching job (the other was former Wisconsin and Arkansas coach Bret Bielema). But CU legend Eric Bieniemy and one-time USC and Washington coach Steve Sarkisian entered the conversation. In the end, the Buffaloes settled on Karl Dorrell, the former UCLA coach who was on the Colorado staff two different times in the 1990’s. Dorrell has spent the last five seasons as an assistant in the NFL. Calhoun, meanwhile, has taken the Falcons to 10 bowl games in his 13 seasons, and famously beat the Broncos three straight times from 2014-16.

HIGHTOWER ON THE SCALES

The national story is that former LSU quarterback Joe Burrow’s hands measured only nine inches Monday at the NFL Combine. The local story is that Boise State product John Hightower weighed in at 189 pounds, 17 pounds heavier than the 172 that showed on the official Broncos roster last season. We can only assume that Hightower put the weight on in the right places. Today it’ll be the offensive line’s turn to go through the “Underwear Olympics,” as measurements will be taken on former Broncos offensive linemen Ezra Cleveland and John Molchon.

JW III AND HIS FELLOW AMERICANS

James Webb III got good minutes off the bench for Team USA in a pair of 2020 FIBA AmeriCup Qualifying victories over Puerto Rico. The Americans won 83-70 in San Juan last Thursday, with the former Boise State star logging 14 minutes and recording 13 points and four rebounds. Team USA then raced past the Puerto Ricans 95-73 Sunday in Washington, D.C. Webb was held to three points while going 0-for-6 from the field, but he pulled down 10 rebounds. The series goes on hiatus until November, when the U.S. team will take on the Bahamas.

This Day In Sports…brought to you by BBSI BOISE…we’re payroll, we’re risk, we’re HR, we’re business.

February 25, 2010, 10 years ago today: Boise’s Jeret “Speedy” Peterson lands his famed Hurricane jump and wins a silver medal in the men’s aerials at the 2010 Winter Olympics. Peterson had missed landing the Hurricane at Torino four years earlier, finishing seventh. He was then sent home by the U.S. team after a drunken fight with a close friend. Peterson’s life took many difficult turns after that, leading to a hiatus from competitive skiing. But Speedy quit drinking, returned to the World Cup circuit, and made the U.S. squad for the Vancouver Games. Then he stuck a jump with the highest degree of difficulty in Olympic aerials history. Peterson’s story would end tragically exactly 17 months later, though, when he took his own life.

(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.)

Scott Slant sponsor sites:

The Ashley Inn of Cascade


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Maz-Tech Automotive


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SCOTT SLANT: Senior of the Day on Senior Day

Presented by WESTERN SIDING.
Monday, February 24, 2020.

It’s harder for fans to remember junior college transfers than four-year players as the years go by. But RJ Williams left an indelible mark on his two-year Boise State career in Sunday’s 74-61 win over New Mexico in Extra Mile Arena. Williams scored 14 points with eight rebounds in the first half alone, and it got better after that. He ended with 27 points and a career-high 17 rebounds. He simply played harder than his Lobos opponents. Three different times in the game Williams gave the Broncos their biggest lead of the day on an old-fashioned three-point play. The exclamation point came with just over a minute left. On a fast break after a steal, fellow Senior Day honoree Justinian Jessup tossed up a lob and Williams slammed it home, predictably bringing the house down.

The story of the game Sunday, team category: Boise State forced 18 New Mexico turnovers and scored 29 points off of them. The Broncos were locked in defensively, too, holding Lobos standout JaWuan Lyle to six points and six turnovers after he had scored 31 points in UNM’s December win over Boise State. The story of the game individually (besides Williams, obviously): Jessup put up 15 points, the 10th straight game he’s scored at least 15. And with four assists, Jessup became the first player in Boise State history to amass 1,500 points, 500 rebounds, 250 assists, 150 steals and 50 blocked shots in a career.

CLOSING IN ON A FIRST-ROUND BYE

San Diego State’s stunning loss to UNLV Saturday night doesn’t change the top seed situation in the Mountain West Tournament, of course. But it does boost the Rebels’ status, and it affects everyone around them, including Boise State. Still, by my calculations, the Broncos have a top five seed secured (and the first round bye that goes with it) in the tournament as long as Colorado State loses to SDSU at Viejas Arena on Tuesday night. And you can bank on it, as mad as the Aztecs are after absorbing the 66-63 defeat at the hands of UNLV that broke their 26-game winning streak. It’s the Broncos who have to face the Rebels Wednesday night, but BSU could still get the No. 3 seed with a win.

BRONCOS ACQUIT THEMSELVES WELL IN AUSTIN

There’s only one way to look at Boise State baseball’s three-game series at Texas, marking a return to the diamond after a 40-year hiatus: entirely encouraging. The Broncos were not embarrassed despite being swept by the No. 22 Longhorns. In fact, Sunday’s series finale was riveting. Boise State rallied from a 5-1 deficit and tied it 5-5 in the ninth inning on a two-run homer by Timeberline High grad Geon Byoung Kim. Texas won it in the 10th on a two-run shot of its own, but the Broncos came out of there knowing they can compete. For the record, the first hit in the new program’s history came from Joe Yorke on a single in the top of the second inning Friday night, and the first home run was on a solo shot Saturday by Austin area native Reagan Doss on the first pitch he saw as a collegian.

HIGHTOWER WARMING UP HIS WHEELS

In his NFL Combine preview column in the Idaho Press Sunday, Mike Prater mused on John Hightower’s chances of creating buzz with a sub-4.4 clocking in the 40-yard dash this Thursday. Hightower, who arrived at the Combine Sunday—the first of four former Boise State stars to go through the rigmarole in Indianapolis—is certainly capable of it. NFL scouts and front office personnel will also be able to see Hightower’s basic pass-catching ability. What they won’t be able to see is Hightower’s knack for making spectacular grabs in traffic. There’s plenty of video available for that, though.

STEADY AS SHE GOES FOR THE STEELIES

The Idaho Steelheads took care of biz over the weekend, achieving the needed sweep of Rapid City in CenturyLink Arena. Friday night’s game was tense, and it was Brett Supinski saving the day. Supinski scored two goals in regulation and produced the only tally in the shootout as the Steelheads beat the Rush 3-2. On Saturday night, Jonathan Charbonneau finally scored his first goal as a Steelie, and another Supinski goal finished off Rapid City in a 3-1 triumph. Tomas Sholl rejected 26 of the Rush’s 27 shots on goal to record his 25th win of the season, tops in the ECHL.

YOTES RIPPING UP THE RECORD BOOK

We’re coming to expect this from College of Idaho, but the Coyotes have reached more milestones in this most memorable of seasons. On Saturday night, the Yotes became the first Cascade Conference team ever to go through a league scheduled undefeated, finishing the campaign 20-0 with a 69-54 win over Corban in Salem. C of I, now 27-3 overall, have a 21-game winning streak, the fourth-longest at any level of college basketball. The Yotes will host a first-round game in the Cascade Conference Tournament Wednesday night in Caldwell. Elsewhere, Northwest Nazarene secured its spot in the GNAC Tournament Saturday night with an 89-87 win over Western Oregon in overtime in Nampa. The Nighthawks trailed by 16 points midway through the second half before staging a sterling rally.

BRONCOS’ FOURTH-QUARTER FORTUNES TURN

It was the polar opposite of what the Boise State women experienced earlier in the Mountain West season. The Broncos destroyed New Mexico down the stretch Saturday, dealing the Lobos a 95-76 loss in Albuquerque. It was a 73-72 game with just under nine minutes left when Boise State went on a 22-1 run. It was the first time this year’s seniors had ever won at The Pit. And just like that, it’s Senior Night. The Broncos host UNLV tonight in ExtraMile Arena, and they’ll be sending off six treasured veterans of the program, including Riley Lupfer. It’s been fun counting up Justinian Jessup’s three-pointers on the men’s side (he now has 316). Lupfer? She has a program record 339. A win tonight guarantees Boise State the No. 2 seed in the Mountain West Tournament.

HOW OFTEN DOES THIS HAPPEN?

In a sport that features scoring to the thousandths of a point, this was certainly an oddity. The Boise State and Utah State women’s gymnastics teams tied Friday night in a quad meet at ExtraMile Arena, scoring 196.80. UC Davis and Sacramento State were third and fourth, respectively. There was a reunion of Bronco gymnasts before the event, attended by former coaches Jackie Aymon (then Carringer) and Sam Sandmire, who combined to lead the program for more than 25 years. Aymon is the recently-retired mayor of McCall.

This Day In Sports…brought to you by COMMERCIAL TIRE…keeping you and your family on the road.

February 24, 1980, 40 years ago today: The Boys of Winter put an exclamation point on the “Miracle on Ice” and defeat Finland, 4-2, to give the United States the Olympic hockey gold medal at Lake Placid. It was two days after one of the biggest moments in American sports history, the 4-3 upset of the Soviet Union in the semi-finals. The USA had been seeded seventh but skated off with their first gold since the other “miracle” in 1960.

(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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Gary Van Tol – BSU head coach


BSU SP Travis Weston & Catcher Cory Meyer


BSU LF Michael Hicks & 2B Christian Padilla

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SCOTT SLANT: Senior Day already?

Presented by BBSI.
Friday, February 21, 2020.

It seems like just yesterday that Justinian Jessup started his Boise State career, draining shots from beyond the arc as a fuzzy-faced true freshman from Longmont, CO. But Jessup has one home game left—Sunday afternoon against New Mexico. There were some high bars set prior to Jessup’s arrival: Anthony Drmic’s Broncos record of 275 career three-pointers and Jimmer Fredette’s Mountain West mark of 296 treys. Both standards belong to Jessup now, as he goes into Senior Day with 313 three-pointers. The next subject to breach is Jessup’s chances of being named first-team All-Mountain West. He’s Boise State’s top scorer in conference play at 17.9 points per game, almost three points better than Derrick Alston’s 15.0. Jessup is fifth in the MW in league games only.

The other Boise State seniors being honored Sunday are Marcus Dickinson, Alex Hobbs, Robin Jorch and RJ Williams. Dickinson and Hobbs came in with Jessup as true freshmen in 2016-17 and have been outstanding role players. One of Dickinson’s most memorable games came during that first year, when he scored 12 points as the Broncos rallied past Utah 73-68 in the first round of the NIT. Hobbs has always been a spark off the bench, earning Mountain West Sixth Man of the Year honors as a sophomore. Jorch has had a solid senior season after redshirting a year ago. And Williams has been a consistent force all season after a spotty junior year, recording eight double-doubles (so far).

A LONG TIME BETWEEN GAMES 1 AND 2

It’s been 2½ months since Boise State’s first game against New Mexico, thanks to the Mountain West’s earlybird week in December. This Lobos squad is considerably different than the one that edged the Broncos 80-78 in The Pit. JJ Caldwell and Carlton Bragg combined for 25 points and 12 rebounds that night. But both Caldwell and Bragg were suspended just before Christmas. Each had played in the previous 13 games for the Lobos, who were 11-2 at the time. Bragg returned to UNM for two games in January before being booted off the team. Caldwell is still suspended indefinitely. It’s important to note that Jaquan Lyle is still there (although he’s had off-the-court issues himself). Lyle poured in 31 points in the December tussle with Boise State.

BRONCO BASEBALL COUNTDOWN REACHES ZERO

I covered Boise State baseball some in 1980 when I was sports director at KIVI. I don’t remember that much about it. Tonight the Broncos play their first game since, when the program revives with the opener of a three-game series at Texas. Boise State’s challenge will be to keep the Longhorns’ bats in check with its untested pitching staff. Texas is already 5-0 but is batting .229 as a team with its top scoring output at seven runs. We don’t know yet which Broncos will become familiar names. We’ll start with lefthander Travis Weston, who has the honor of being the starting pitcher on this historic night. And we have to throw in shortstop Cole Posey. There are lots of Giants fans in town, and they’re going to like anyone named Posey. And hey—he’s from Georgetown, TX, just outside of Austin.

CLEVELAND’S PRE-COMBINE NOTES

Stock could be rising for former Boise State left tackle Ezra Cleveland. NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein is profiling prospects ahead of next week’s NFL Combine and tabs Cleveland as a guy who “plays with patience and technique.” Writes Zierlein, “Cleveland could be a good case study in how well a player can develop strength-wise once they get to the NFL. He’s a fantastic athlete. It’s not often Cleveland is going to get beat out of his pass set.” However, Zierlein harps on Cleveland’s anchor and balance, especially versus pass-rushers with a “mean punch.” Zierlein grades Cleveland as a high-end backup with potential to eventually become a starter.

FANS FILE IN AT CENTURYLINK ARENA

The Idaho Steelheads have announced sellouts in seven straight home dates at CenturyLink Arena and look for that run to continue with a pair of games this weekend against Rapid City. The Steelheads even filled the barn Wednesday night, with 5,203 fans ticketed for the 5-3 victory over Kansas City. On the ice, the Rush have had the Steelies’ number this season. Idaho has just two wins in eight games against the Rush, with five to go in the season series. The Steelheads’ penalty kill remains a strength despite seeing its perfect run end at nine straight games in last Sunday’s loss at Toledo. The Steelies have still been perfect in 12 of their last 14 games, going 40-for-43 against power plays in that stretch.

FANTASTIC FINISH AHEAD FOR THE YOTES?

College of Idaho’s expressed goal is to become the first Cascade Conference team ever to go undefeated in league play. Coach Colby Blaine acknowledged that the other night in a KTVB interview. The opportunity is there, with the Coyotes playing two middle-of-the-road teams away from home at Northwest Christian tonight and at Corban Saturday night. The Yotes haven’t lost since Thanksgiving weekend, 19 games ago. They already have their third straight 25-win season and now go after a third straight 30-victory campaign. It’s the final weekend of action before C of I begins play in the Cascade Conference Championships next Wednesday at the J.A. Albertson Activities Center.

THE PIT AND THE BRONCO WOMEN’S PENDULUM

Boise State’s quest for the No. 2 seed in the women’s Mountain West Tournament heads into The Pit Saturday—literally, and hopefully not figuratively. The Broncos have been inconsistent this season, but the Lobos have been wildly so. UNM opened the season by beating Missouri and roughed up rival New Mexico State 107-53 just before Christmas. The Lobos also beat Providence over the holidays. But they’re currently 14-14 overall and 5-10 in conference play. It’ll be a higher-energy atmosphere than Boise State is accustomed to—New Mexico averages 4,853 fans per game. Albuquerque is indeed a basketball town.

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February 21, 1980, 40 years ago today: Everybody is locked in on the Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, where Eric Heiden won another gold medal with a victory in the 1500-meter speed skating. Meanwhile, Hanni Wenzel won the women’s giant slalom to become the first athlete from Liechtenstein, a tiny country with a population of less than 30,000, to win an Olympic gold medal. But the biggest moment of those Games was still a day away.

(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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SCOTT SLANT: A turnover-fest offset by assists

Presented by BBSI.
Thursday, February 20, 2020.

You won’t see a DVD of this game in the Naismith Hall of Fame, unless it’s in the “Assists” display. Boise State and San Jose State combined for 37 turnovers, a season-high 21 of them from the Broncos, before the visitors finished off an 80-62 victory over the Spartans Wednesday night in the silent Events Center. Something else had to go right for Boise State to notch an 18-point victory, and it was assists. The Broncos dished out 29, the most in the Leon Rice era, with true freshman RayJ Dennis handing out eight. That can happen when you shoot 57 percent from the field. Justinian Jessup reached 20 points for the seventh time in conference play, including four three-pointers. Boise State moves to 10-6 in the Mountain West, keeping a No. 3 seed in the league tournament a realistic goal (No. 2 is a long shot).

It was a wild night for Robin Jorch. Exhiliration over Jorch’s performance turned to temporary despondence when the 6-11 German senior suffered a knee injury less than five minutes into the second half. Jorch had just made his sixth field goal without a miss, reaching a season-high 12 points and giving the Broncos a 52-44 lead. He went to the locker room for treatment. But Jorch came back to the bench, and then—with his knee heavily taped—returned to the floor when RJ Williams picked up his fourth foul with 11½ minutes left. Jorch didn’t score again, but his 12 points were the most he has put up in more than three years.

NO SPARTANS SWEEP ON THE WOMEN’S SIDE

The Boise State women still haven’t been swept in a home-and-home conference series in four years, as they avenged a January loss to San Jose State with an 85-67 romp Wednesday night in ExtraMile Arena. The Broncos put the game away with a 29-point third quarter. A’Shanti Coleman led the way with 20 points and nine rebounds, while Riley Lupfer scored 15 of her 18 points in the second half, all on three-pointers. And how about Jayde Christopher? She dished out 12 assists, giving her 222 in her career, 21 short of the Mountain West record with at least three games to play. The win keeps Boise State in second place in the MW behind Fresno State, which had been 15-0 in conference play before being shocked 88-65 last night at Air Force.

YOTES AT THE NAIA MOUNTAINTOP

Time out for College of Idaho men’s hoops. The Coyotes made a move Wednesday, rising to No. 1 in the country in the NAIA Division II Top 25 poll. It’s the third time in C of I history the Yotes have been top-ranked, and it’s a real feather in the cap of coach Colby Blaine, who took over almost two years ago when Scott Garson accepted an assistant coach’s spot at Santa Clara. In his second season, Blaine is 56-9 and has the Yotes in the NAIA Division II National Championships next month.

CALHOUN CONSIDERS ANOTHER WORLD

Trying to imagine Troy Calhoun going from the stringent atmosphere of the Air Force Academy to a totally different culture in Boulder. But Calhoun is reportedly one of two finalists for the Colorado head coaching job (along with former Wisconsin and Arkansas coach Bret Bielema). Calhoun, an Air Force graduate, has been coaching the Falcons since Fisher DeBerry stepped down in 2007. He’s at a peak right now, as Air Force is coming off an 11-2 season and a No.22 final ranking in the AP Poll. The Falcons beat the Buffaloes in overtime last September in the first meeting between the programs in 45 years. That was the week before a 30-19 loss to Boise State on the blue turf. Calhoun’s career record in 98-69.

STILL FULL SPEED AHEAD FOR LVE

From the mailbag at DallasCowboys.com Wednesday came a question about “rumors” that Leighton Vander Esch’s neck procedure in January was more serious than we’re led to believe. But beat writers Lindsay Cash Draper and David Helman counter that. “We’ve been told repeatedly that this ordeal was routine, and the timing was as good as it could be. Vander Esch really rested the second half of the season and will have the entire offseason to get ready for 2020. Not to mention, youth is on his side. I’d say it’s something to note, but not worry on—yet,” replied Draper.

“I haven’t talked to anyone inside the organization who is overly worried about Leighton’s availability. Only time will tell how well he bounces back, but I’m willing to give the situation the benefit of the doubt,” added Helman. The former Boise State star was first injured in late October but tried to come back for a couple games in mid-November before being shelved for the season. LVE still logged 72 tackles last season.

THE MOUND WILL MAKE THE DIFFERENCE

First impression of the new Boise State baseball team is that it will have the ability to hit. Staying with Texas in the season-opening three-game series in Austin starting Friday will likely depend on pitching. That’s the scariest part of building a new baseball program from scratch. Last October, the Broncos played a couple of “sneak preview” exhibition games, beating Northwest Nazarene 11-9 and falling to Montana State-Billings 26-8 (not a misprint). Coach Gary Van Tol notes, however, that four of the Broncos’ top five hurlers weren’t pitching for the team last fall. Hard to believe it’s one day away now.

STEELIES’ EARLY SEPARATION PAYS OFF

The Idaho Steelheads settled things early with Kansas City Wednesday night, scoring two unanswered goals in the first period and two more in the second while rolling to a 5-3 win in CenturyLink Arena. Five different Steelheads scored—a nice start to a nine-game homestand. While the Steelies attack was humming, goaltender Tomas Sholl carried a shutout 4½ minutes into the third period before the Mavericks broke through. KC potted a couple desperation goals in the final four minutes to make it closer, but Sholl still notched his 23rd victory of the season.

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February 20, 1998: At the age of 15, Tara Lipinski becomes the youngest Winter Olympics figure skating gold medalist in history when she wins the ladies singles competition at Nagano. Lipinski had finished second to Michelle Kwan in the short program but produced a flawless long program that was more than enough to overtake Kwan for the gold. It would be Lipinski’s only Olympics, as she would turn pro in April of that year. Her milestone would be eclipsed at the 2014 Sochi Olympics by Russia’s 15-year-old team gold medalist, Julia Lipnitskaya.

(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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SCOTT SLANT: The need to pay attention

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Wednesday, February 19, 2020.

Boise State plays at San Jose State tonight. How could this be a trap game, you scoff? You need only go back four years, when the Broncos were a week removed from a miracle final-minute rally that beat San Diego State 66-63 in Viejas Arena. They promptly laid a colossal egg in a 68-63 loss to the Spartans in the sleepy Events Center. Boise State consequently went into the Mountain West Tournament that year seeded third, which is a goal for them right now. Then they lost in the first round to Colorado State and turned down a bid to the new “Vegas 16” postseason tournament. It was a good decision in retrospect, but it did leave Anthony Drmic two points short of Boise State’s career scoring record. The Spartans came into that game 3-14 in conference play. They’re 3-11 now.

Yes, Boise State is heavily-favored tonight, but the Broncos have to get their shooting remedied. They’ve been under 43 percent from the field five games in a row now. The last time they topped it was in their first game against the Spartans, when they sizzled with 57 percent shooting. Split the difference—50 percent would be sufficient in the South Bay. Abu Kigab, recovering from his hip-pointer, got his first start since the SJSU game Sunday against San Diego State but still played only 17 minutes. In parts of three games since the injury, Kigab is 4-for-18 from the field. For example, he came in midway through the first half versus Air Force last week and dropped in two quick buckets. But he missed his remaining eight shots, including four three-point attempts. The Broncos need a 100 percent Kigab.

THE SEEDING SIDEBAR

San Diego State, of course, has the No. 1 seed sewn up in the Mountain West Tournament in a couple weeks. The race revolves around the second and third seeds, which will allow those teams to avoid the Aztecs until a potential MW championship game. Only a complete collapse will keep Utah State out of the No. 2 spot now, which is where the Aggies sit currently. They’re tied with Nevada, which beat New Mexico 88-74 Tuesday night. But USU holds the tiebreaker, and the Pack still has a game left against the Aztecs. So it’s all about No. 3. Colorado State dropped into a tie for fourth with Boise State and UNLV after an 80-56 thumping in Las Vegas Tuesday night. The Broncos own the tiebreaker over both CSU and Nevada and will likely get the third seed if they win out.

WHAT ROUND FOR WEAVER?

Mock drafts are coming at us fast and furious. ESPN’s inimitable Mel Kiper Jr. released his latest first round projections on Tuesday, and Boise State’s Curtis Weaver is not there. Nor is he on two of the three mocks at NFL.com (from Maurice Jones and Chad Reuter). But Bucky Brooks pegs Weaver as the No. 31 overall pick, going to Kansas City. Andy Patton of USA Today’s Seahawks Wire likes Seattle drafting Weaver, as he’ll probably be available when the Seahawks’ No. 27 overall pick rolls around. But, as Patton notes, the ‘Hawks could wait it out. “While some have Weaver as a late first rounder, others consider him more of a second or even third round pick, a spot that might suit (Seattle) a little better considering his rawness,” writes Patton. Weaver’s next stop: the NFL Combine next week.

ZACH WILSON SHOULD BE SECURE IN PROVO

You can start to taste spring football now, but you wonder if this is just window dressing. “BYU football coaches promise ‘wide-open competition’ for starting quarterback spot in spring ball,” said the Valentine’s Day headline in the Deseret News. It’s Zach Wilson’s job, right? But Jay Drew’s story suggests it “a three-man derby, as Wilson attempts to hold off redshirt sophomores Jaren Hall (even as the outfielder splits time between baseball and football the next few months) and Baylor Romney.” Said passing game coordinator Aaron Roderick: “All three guys will get reps, and it is going to be a competition this spring.” Is it just talk? On the other hand, Romney deserves a shot after his performance in the 28-25 upset of Boise State last fall.

‘DIRTY DOZEN’ FINALLY ON THE DIAMOND

It’s finally time for Boise State baseball’s “Dirty Dozen” to get down to work. That group consists of the original 12 players in the revived Broncos program from the fall of 2018 and spring of 2019. Eight of them are position players, and four of those are in the starting lineup for the opener at Texas Friday, as projected by B.J. Rains of the Idaho Press. There’s Geon Hyoung Kim, the Timberline High grad who transferred from Portland, starting in centerfield. In leftfield is Michael Hicks of Coeur d’Alene, who also played at Portland. Catcher Cory Meyer out of Highland High came to Boise State by way of Washington State. And Australian Grant Kerry is slated to start in rightfield. It should be highly emotional for the guys who have been immersed in coach Gary Van Tol’s team since Day 1.

STEELHEADS NEED A SURGE NOW

If the Idaho Steelheads are to make a move for second place in the ECHL Mountain Division, now’s the time. The Steelheads open a nine-game homestand tonight against Kansas City, and they need to take advantage of CenturyLink Arena ice. Utah has won four games in a row to open up a six-point lead over the third-place Steelies in the standings (Allen continues to be the runaway leader in the division). Idaho has won seven straight games over the Mavericks in Boise. Statistical notes: Marc-Olivier Roy leads the Steelheads in scoring this season with 42 points, while Will Merchant is tops in goals with 17. Merchant also leads the team with five power-play goals.

BRONCO WOMEN FACE SUDDENLY STRUGGLING SPARTANS

The last time the Boise State women faced San Jose State, it turned out to be the pinnacle of the Spartans’ season to date. They broke a nine-game losing streak to the Broncos with a 74-61 decision in the Events Center. SJSU was 9-1 in the Mountain West at that point but hasn’t won since. For Boise State, it’s been a quiet senior season for Riley Lupfer. Then you look at NCAA stats and see that she’s fourth in the country with 82 three-pointers. It has not been a quiet senior campaign for Jayde Christopher, the nation’s second-leading assists artist. The Broncos have at least four games left, and Christopher needs 33 assists total to reach the Mountain West career record of 243.

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February 19, 2010, 10 years ago today: Tiger Woods holds one of the most-watched sports press conferences in television history. Although it wasn’t really a press conference—it was a 13½-minute statement apologizing for as many as a dozen affairs revealed after a Thanksgiving night incident that had Woods leaving his Florida home and crashing his SUV down the street, with wife Elin not far behind to presumably lend assistance. But she was angry. A wide array of sponsors subsequently dropped him, and he went into rehabilitation for sexual addiction. Woods would return to golf in the 2010 Masters but played a limited schedule the next two years.

(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.)