Thursday, March 8, 2012.
Close only counts in horseshoes. But win or lose in Las Vegas, courageous would count going into the offseason for Boise State. The Broncos open the Mountain West Tournament this afternoon against San Diego State after finishing the regular season with what could be called a courageous effort at New Mexico. This team has been knocked up ‘side the head in its new conference, but it still had enough gumption to give the Lobos a run in the Pit. A month earlier, saddled with a six-game losing streak, Boise State mustered enough to take San Diego State to the wire at Viejas Arena before falling by two points. We’ll see today if the Broncos still have it in ‘em.
Coach Leon Rice used only eight players in last Saturday’s loss at New Mexico—Tre’ Nichols was under the weather, and Igor Hadziomerovic had aggravated his still-healing foot. Nichols had a season-high 17 points at San Diego State February 1. Hadziomerovic has not been able to get untracked since returning to action from the broken foot he suffered in early December. The Australian freshman is still looking for his first field goal since December 7.
For Idaho, the goal is not a winning season any longer. That has been clinched. The Vandals now have their sights set on their first 20-win season in 19 years as they begin WAC Tournament play this afternoon against Hawaii. If Idaho doesn’t get it this week (they’re 0-3 in WAC Tournament games under Don Verlin), there could be another chance in one of college basketball’s secondary postseason tourneys. The Vandals already have back-to-back 18-win seasons for the first time since 1993-94.
Boise State strength and conditioning coach Tim Socha’s role changes with the advent of spring football Monday. Socha’s been hunkered down with the Broncos since the semester began, presiding over the team’s all-important winter conditioning. He’s kept an eye out for leaders with Boise State having lost an historic senior class after 2011. But Socha says it’s nothing new. “We are always on the lookout for guys that want to be in a leadership role,” said Socha. “It doesn't matter what year it is. Leadership is something that is important to a team and is something that we try and develop. We will have to have some of our players step up and take on that challenge. Like everything else though, it will take a lot of hard work and consistent effort to accomplish that task.”
Let’s be clear about Temple. These are not the Owls that were kicked out of the Big East after the 2004 season due to their moribund football program. Since Al Golden and now Steve Addazio have brought it back to life, Temple can play again and is a worthy addition to the Big East as a football-only member beginning this season (and all sports next year). The progress of negotiations with the Owls two weeks ago allowed pressure on Boise State to join the Big East a year early to die a natural death. Temple has finally regained a foothold in a major market (Philadelphia) and can have an impact in the Big East. Did you watch the Owls dismantle Wyoming 37-15 in the New Mexico Bowl last December?
There may be opportunity awaiting former Mountain View High linebacker Darren Markle at Washington State, and it’s not just because of new coach Mike Leach. The Cougars booted linebacker Sekope Kaufusi off the team after his arrest by Pullman police last week for possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia. With another ‘backer, C.J. Mizell, already dismissed by Leach last month, WSU is left without a returning starter at the position. Markle, a 6-1, 237-pounder who’ll be a junior this season, got into five games for the Cougs last season, logging three tackles and a fumble recovery.
It took the worst team in the ECHL to get it done, but that matters not to the Idaho Steelheads. The team’s franchise-record 10-game losing streak is over after a 3-1 victory last night over Bakersfield in CenturyLink Arena. Jerry Kuhn earned his keep between the pipes again, turning away 51 of 52 Condor shots. Incredibly, it’s the fifth time this season Kuhn has made 50 saves. On the offensive end, captain Marty Flichel scored his first goal since December 2, potting a clinching tally in the third period. Flichel turned 36 years old Tuesday. With the win, the Steelheads now leads Bakersfield by 13 points (effectively 6½ games) for the seventh and final playoff spot in the ECHL’s Western Conference with 12 to play. The two teams play again tomorrow night and Saturday night.
The NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships in Nampa tomorrow and Friday feature a familiar football name that would rather become a familiar Olympic name this summer. Jeff Demps rushed for 569 yards and six touchdowns for Florida last season but has given up football to concentrate on making the 2012 Summer Games in London. Demps is the two-time defending national indoor 60-meter champion, running a 6.53 in 2011. He’ll enter tomorrow’s meet with the fastest qualifying time in the country. The 60-meter dash should be one of the highlights at the Jacksons Indoor Track, with the qualifying times of all 20 competitors separated by just 13-hundredths of a second.
Elsewhere in local doings, the Boise State women extended their season last night by knocking off Colorado State 68-63 in the quarterfinals of the Mountain West Tournament. The Broncos now face another upset winner in yesterday’s first round, New Mexico, who they swept during the regular season. The College of Idaho women saw their season end yesterday with a 69-54 loss to Friends University of Kansas in the first round of the NAIA Division II National Tournament. And the Idaho Stampede’s playoff hopes took a hit yesterday in a 94-87 loss at Tulsa. The Stampede are locked in last place in the D-League West Conference and are 4½ games out of a playoff spot with 11 games to go. Against the 66ers, poor shooting plagued the Stamps, who shot 43 percent from the field and 25 percent from three-point range.
This Day In Sports…March 8, 2002, 10 years ago today:
A day after finishing his second losing season in three years, Rod Jensen is fired as head basketball coach at Boise State. Jensen had a 109-93 record in seven seasons at BSU, but attendance had fallen off dramatically in his final campaign—which ended 13-17 overall with a 6-12 mark in the Broncos’ first season in the WAC. On the same day, BSU women’s coach Trish Stevens resigned after a 77-93 record over six seasons.
(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment Sunday nights at 10:30PM on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 The Ticket. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)