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The first-half blitz was a blessing

The first-half blitz was a blessing

by Tom Scott

Bio | Follow: @thescottslant


Posted on January 27, 2014 at 8:36 AM

Updated Monday, Jan 27 at 8:36 AM

Monday, January 27, 2014.

Boise State needed a game like that.  At least a first half like that.  The Broncos shook off the recent habit of slow starts on the road by welcoming San Jose State to Taco Bell Arena with a 76-55 victory Saturday.  That’s the glass half-full.  After a 48-point first half, Boise State may have had visions of 100 points dancing in its head, having not crossed that threshold since before Thanksgiving.  But the Broncos went through an alarming second-half lull, going a stretch of 12 minutes with only two field goals.  They shot 37 percent for the half, 20 percent from three-point land, and missed six of 12 free throws.  That’s the glass half-empty.  The net effect, though, is a trip back over .500 in Mountain West play at 4-3, tied for fifth with UNLV.

Boise State can’t win the big games coming down the pike shooting the way it did in the second half Saturday, but if the Broncos can play defense and take care of the ball the way they did against San Jose State, they’ll have a chance.  They put the clamps on the Spartans, who shot 35.6 percent and went 13 minutes themselves without a field goal in the second half.  The spell wasn’t broken until SJSU’s DJ Brown hit a three-pointer with 35 seconds left in the game.  Couple the defense with the lack of turnovers, and Boise State was not going to be threatened in this one.  The Broncos went one entire half, the first, without a turnover for the first time in almost 10 years and had only four giveaways for the game.

This Ryan Watkins thing is getting rather repetitive.  The irrepressible Boise State senior scored a season-high 18 points and grabbed 16 rebounds to notch his ninth double-double of the season.  Watkins has done it five times in seven Mountain West games and is averaging 14 points and 14.4 rebounds in conference play.  I don’t know if Watkins could be a serious Mountain West Player of the Year candidate, but he should be.  Hey, Bronco fans would be happy if just once he was named Player of the Week.

Former Boise State athletic director Gene Bleymaier was in town for the game over the weekend in his role as AD at San Jose State.  He attended a much deserved private dedication ceremony for the Bleymaier Football Complex Friday evening.  Bleymaier told the Stateman’s Brian Murphy he wants to build at SJSU what has been built at Boise State.  That could happen internally in the Spartans’ athletic department, but no matter how much the school eventually wins, it’ll be very difficult for it to ever happen externally.  The Bay Area pecking order is brutal—49ers, Raiders, Giants, A’s, Warriors, Sharks, Cal, Stanford, and so on.  San Jose State gets only the scraps of exposure.  But Bleymaier will give it everything he’s got.

We haven’t seen the sun in the Treasure Valley for 11 days now, so you wonder how Boise State is able to recruit during a legendary inversion like this.  Obviously Bronco staffers talk their way through it, explaining this is a January phenomenon that is seldom this severe—and that there are these big mountains and blue skies right up there.  The inversion didn’t scare off wide receiver Jeremy McNichols of Santa Margarita, CA, who flipped his commitment from Utah.  Nor did it keep cornerback Zavior Hoxie of Buford, GA, from giving his verbal. 

Also, previous Boise State commit Shay Fields, who has de-committed from USC, appears to have the Broncos off his radar.  The wide receiver from Bellflower, CA, tells he’ll decide between Cal and Colorado in the coming days.  And defensive end Will Dissly of Bozeman, MT, who committed just before Chris Petersen left, tweeted last night that he has flipped from BSU to Washington.

I talked a bit Friday about Titus Young, now absent, of course, from the NFL.  If Young had kept his house in order the past year, he’d have a chance to be coached by former Boise State offensive coordinator Robert Prince—and that would be a good thing.  Prince has been hired as wide receivers coach for the Detroit Lions, where he’ll still have Calvin Johnson and Nate Burleson to work with.  Prince is a solid guy and could have been a positive force for Young, about whom there is no news regarding his legal troubles in Southern California.  Prince will be able to renew acquaintances with Kellen Moore in Detroit.  Prince was wide receivers coach for the Broncos during Moore’s senior year in 2011.

The Idaho Steelheads got a nice surprise yesterday when it was announced goalie Patrick Nagle was being returned to the club by the AHL’s Texas Stars.  And he made it back to Boise in time for yesterday’s 5 p.m. faceoff against Bakersfield in CenturyLink Arena.  Things were going fantastically with three minutes left in the game, as Nagle was pitching a 1-0 shutout at Bakersfield.  Then the Condors scored with 2:44 remaining, and again with 1:53 to go, and again into an empty net with 37 seconds left, stunning the Steelheads 3-1.  With losses in three of their past four games, the Steelheads now have to go to Anchorage for a three-game series against the ECHL Mountain Division-leading Alaska Aces beginning Wednesday.

What a finish by Graham DeLaet at the Farmers Insurance Open yesterday.  The former Boise State star didn’t pick up his first PGA Tour victory, but he notched his second career second-place finish in a five-way tie one shot behind winner Scott Stallings.  DeLaet had made the cut Friday by just two strokes after carding a one-over 73.  But he put together a 69-68 weekend, with a wild round yesterday that included three bogeys, five birdies and an eagle.  DeLaet’s birdie on the 18th hole meant about an extra $175,000—the difference between second and third—he pocketed $366,000 to bring his season earnings to $815,667 in just five tournaments.  Former Bronco teammate Troy Merritt, who was tied with DeLaet after the first round, went the opposite direction and missed the cut following a seven-over 79 on Friday.

These close losses have to be wearing on the Idaho Stampede, who are now just two games above .500.  The Stampede have dropped three in a row, all by five points or less.  The latest came Saturday night in Tulsa, where the 66ers eeked out a 131-128 win despite another 40-point night from Pierre Jackson (he scored 46).  The Stampede rallied from a 17-point deficit with 7½ minutes remaining in the game and actually took the lead with 1½ minutes to go, putting up a whopping 49 points in the fourth quarter.  EJ Singler contributed 30 points in 35 minutes off the bench.  The Stampede are back in CenturyLink Arena Wednesday for another D-League West Division clash against Santa Cruz. 

Things didn’t go so well for Erik Fisher at Kitzbuehel over the weekend.  The “Flying Fish” from Middleton finished 54th in the Super G Saturday and 37th in the famed Hahnenkamm downhill yesterday.  However, later in the day Fisher was named to the US Olympic alpine team that will compete in Sochi next month.  It’ll be Fisher’s second Olympiad.  Capital High grad Hailey Duke was on the US team with Fisher in 2010 in Vancouver but missed out on making the Amertican squad this year.

Among other campus doings: the No. 15 Boise State gymnastics team scored a season-high 196.025 to outdistance Southern Utah Friday night in CenturyLink Arena.  The BSU men’s tennis team rebounded from a 4-0 waxing at the hands of Baylor Saturday to upend Drake 4-1 yesterday.  The No. 21 Bronco wrestlers are likely to slip out of the Top 25 after being routed on their home mats yesterday by Lehigh, 35-6.  And the College of Idaho men’s basketball team made its No. 14 ranking in NAIA Division II stand up on the road over the weekend.  The Coyotes toppled No. 9 Southern Oregon in double-overtime Friday night—then denied Oregon Tech coach Danny Miles his 1,000th career win with a 79-65 win Saturday night.  The Yotes have won five straight and are now 18-5.

This Day In Sports…January 27, 1973:

Keith Wilkes scores 20 points and Bill Walton adds 16 as UCLA breaks the college basketball record for longest winning streak, notching its 61st victory in a row in an 82-63 win at Notre Dame.  It was on that floor in South Bend that the streak would end almost a year later after being stretched to 88 games.  The run had started in January, 1971.

(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.)