Thursday, March 11, 2010.
It will be a sleepy scene in the Lawlor Events Center this afternoon for Boise State’s first round game in the WAC Tournament against Utah State. Frankly, that should favor the Broncos. Unfortunately, they’re accustomed to energy-challenged environments, having averaged just 3,061 fans a game in 16 home dates at Taco Bell Arena. The plunge in attendance has been alarming, but that’s just beatin’ a dead horse. For the final two home games, with something on the line, Boise State drew only 2,183 last Thursday and 3,142 for a Senior Day game on Saturday. And the Broncos won both games in dominant fashion. Today’s smattering in Reno is no big deal (the opponent, however, will be).
The WAC Tournament moves to Orleans Arena in Las Vegas next year. And Reno doesn’t appear to be going out in a blaze of glory. Nevada has offered discounts for local companies, as well as city, county, state and government employees. Attendance dipped last year when the tournament returned to Reno after two years in Las Cruces. Crowds were down 31 percent from the last time the event was held in the Biggest Little City in 2006. The West Coast Conference, meanwhile, has had a successful two years in Vegas. Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s drew a near-capacity crowd of 7,726 on a neutral court for the title game Monday night, won in a decisive 81-62 upset by the Gaels. The WAC Tournament won’t nudge the needle much among Las Vegas locals—it’s going to have to depend on out-of-towners.
If things get intense today, the Broncos might want to watch their mouths around the Utah State bench. And that goes both ways, as the WAC has reprimanded USU coach Stew Morrill for some "provocative language" directed at New Mexico State’s Jahmar Young last Saturday. According to Aggies play-by-play man Al Lewis yesterday on Idaho SportsTalk, Young was slapped with a technical foul and started yelling (not without profanity) in front of the Utah State bench, thinking he had been fouled on a steal by Utah State’s Brady Jardine. Morrill, uh, responded. “Stew has apologized,” said Lewis.
On the women’s side, Nevada fended off Boise State in the first round last night, 64-59. The Broncos had their chances in the final minute, but fell short of the 20-win threshold. They hold out slim hopes of a Women’s NIT bid, but the season likely ends at 19-12. Tasha Harris led Boise State in her probable career finale with 19 points. Idaho’s women toppled New Mexico State 75-63 to move into tomorrow’s semifinals against Fresno State. The C of I women play Cardinal Stritch of Wisconsin tonight in the first round of the NAIA Division II Tournament in Sioux City, IA. If the Lady Yotes win, they’ll likely face the top seed, Davenport of Michigan, who goes into the tournament at 30-2.
Boise State spring football is going to get notice nationally like never before. Seems like there’s some kind of blog about it (or the Broncos in general) every day. Andy Staples hit it at SI.com yesterday. Whereas Boise State felt like it was carrying the flag for all non-BCS teams when it played in its first Fiesta Bowl, Staples puts the same type of onus on Virginia Tech on Labor Day. “The Hokies will carry into the season the hopes and dreams of every high-major team that doesn't want to let a program from outside the BCS power structure into the BCS title game,” writes Staples. “Because, frankly, if neither Virginia Tech nor Oregon State beats the Broncos, Boise State is breaking through the glass ceiling.”
Speaking of SI.com, two of the top three stories on the college football homepage last night: “Oregon QB Masoli charged in frat house burglary,” and “Oregon RB James to appear in court Friday.” Sheez. Yes, the Ducks’ Jeremiah Masoli has been charged with one count of burglary in the second degree for allegedly helping a former teammate steal two computers and a guitar in January. And LaMichael James is set to appear Friday for a plea bargain hearing on his domestic violence charges.
It’s clear the Minnesota Vikings are going to look everywhere but their practice squad to find a replacement for running back Chester Taylor, signed away by the Bears. LaDainian Tomlinson, released last month by the Chargers, is set for a visit with the Vikings today. Former Boise State star Ian Johnson, a Minnesota practice squad player, isn’t too high on the list right now. The Vikes are looking for a third down back to complement Adrian Peterson, and Ian would seem suited to that. But a look at Tomlinson is hard to resist. It’s ironic—Tomlinson was one of the guys Johnson was chasing on the WAC career touchdowns list in 2008. Ian ended up with 59 TDs, ahead of LT’s 54 and three short of Marshall Faulk’s 62. Johnson did, of course, break Faulk’s WAC mark for rushing touchdowns with the final score of his career in the Poinsettia Bowl.
Is Victoria still energized by Canada’s gold medal victory over the U.S. 12 days ago? It sure looked that way last night when the Salmon Kings burst out to a 2-0 lead over the first-place Idaho Steelheads. But the aura wore off, as the Steelheads not only fought back, they crushed Victoria 5-2. The red-hot Mark Derlago notched his second hat trick of the season, scoring twice on power plays. Captain Marty Flichel, playing in his 400th game as a Steelhead dating back to the WCHL days, assisted on both of those. The Steelies won their 40th game of the season and their 19th on the road, both tops in the ECHL. The three-game series with the Salmon Kings resumes tomorrow night.
Now that they have a winning record again, the Idaho Stampede are trying to get some separation from the .500 mark. They improved to 20-18 last night with a 125-119 win over the L.A. D-Fenders in Qwest Arena. The Stampede have now won five of their last six games. The Stamps hit a season-high 58 percent from the field, keyed by Andre Barrett’s 10-for-14 night. Barrett poured in 28 points, 12 of them in the fourth quarter to close the deal. Coby Karl’s heating up again—he scored 22 points, with Donell Taylor adding 21. The Stampede host the D-Fenders again tomorrow for Denver Nuggets Affiliate Night.
This Day In Sports…March 11, 1995, 15 years ago today:
Sun Valley product Picabo Street wins her fourth straight World Cup downhill and fifth overall to become the first American woman to clinch a World Cup downhill season championship. Picabo had won a silver medal at the 1994 Winter Olympics at Lillehammer but had never won a World Cup race until that season. She would go on to win a gold medal in the Super-G at the 1998 Nagano Games, endure a devastating injury shortly thereafter, and make it back to the Salt Lake Olympics for a last hurrah in 2002.
(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 1350 KTIK/The Ticket. He also handles color commentary on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football.)