Wednesday, February 12, 2014.
It’ll be a Battle of the Backboards tonight in Taco Bell Arena. New Mexico may have beaten Boise State 84-75 last month, but Ryan Watkins provided the Lobos with a sobering experience on the glass. The Broncos’ senior post yanked down 22 rebounds at the Pit, 11 of them on the offensive end. The extra possessions allowed Boise State to crawl back into the game after a miserable start. New Mexico feels like it has shored up that part of its game. When Wyoming’s Larry Nance scored with 10½ minutes left in the Lobos’ overtime win last Wednesday, it marked the first time in more than 73 minutes of floor time UNM had allowed second-chance points. The Lobos will try to shut down Watkins tonight, especially on the offensive glass, and continue a run that has seen just Nance’s two second-chance points in the last 88½ minutes.
No word yet on a return to the lineup tonight by Jeff Elorriaga, but Boise State isn’t the only team that’s worried about missing a starter. New Mexico’s Deshawn Delaney’s status was uncertain after he injured a toe in his right foot last Wednesday. Delaney didn’t practice after that—until yesterday. Coach Craig Neal says he expects the junior guard to be able to go tonight. Delaney has been starting since the Lobos beat Marquette just before Christmas, and they’re 11-1 with him in the first five. He scored only two points against the Broncos last month at the Pit but made his mark with nine rebounds.
Boise State fans have had a week to rejuvenate after expending a lot of energy in last Wednesday’s deflating loss to San Diego State. This may be the Broncos’ final chance to draw 10,000 this season, unless they can get back on a roll and light a fire under the populace for the final two Taco Bell Arena dates against UNLV and Nevada. Boise State is going with a Black-Out tonight—we’ll see how sapped Bronco Nation is with a three-game losing streak. Can last week’s atmosphere be re-created? San Diego State liked it, for better or for worse. “You can most definitely feel it and that’s what we want,” said Aztecs star Xavier Thames. “We want big games, I’m pretty sure our whole team dreamed about this. Being top five in the country and coming to a hostile environment in Boise with a good team, we strive for things like that.”
Well, Wyoming did what Boise State couldn’t last week—it held onto a lead against No. 5 San Diego State last night. The Aztecs were apprehensive about their trip to Laramie and its 7,200 feet, and now their 20-game winning streak is over after the Cowboys brought it crashing down, 68-62. Xavier Thames was out of sorts, going 3-for-15 from the field including 0-for-7 from beyond the arc. A little dose of déjà vu for SDSU, who last year scored just nine first-half points at Wyoming and lost 58-45. Also in the Mountain West last night, Utah State topped Colorado State in Fort Collins, 71-62.
Pierre Jackson was due for one of these. The D-League’s leading scorer was held to a season-low six points on 2-for-19 shooting (that’s 2-for-19) last night as the Idaho Stampede fell at Santa Cruz, 100-98. Even a half-normal Jackson would have changed the result. Kevin Murphy tried to compensate with another big night, scoring 28 points, and Dee Bost put up another double-double, guard-style (20 points, 11 assists). The win moved the Warriors back into first place in the West Division—the Stamps are 1½ games back.
The Idaho Steelheads go into tonight’s game in CenturyLink Arena with a season-high four-game winning streak. Likewise, Bakersfield comes to Boise on a season-high four-game winning streak, so we’ll see what gives. The Condors have been steadily improving all season. Since starting 1-10-1, they’ve gone 19-10-3 to climb out of the Pacific Division basement. And they’re 3-1 versus Idaho. Bakersfield’s Laurent Broissoit, the ECHL’s top goalie, has given the Steelies all sorts of trouble—he allowed just one goal as Bakersfield won 3-1 in the Link 2½ weeks ago. On the other hand, the Steelheads have the newly-named ECHL Goaltender of the Week in Pat Nagle. In three games last week, Nagle went 3-0 and made 91 saves, with a save percentage of .968.
Boise State coach Bryan Harsin has apparently lost a member of his support staff already, but it’s understandable. According to Pete Roussel of CoachingSearch.com, Director of Player Personnel Blake Baker is headed to Louisiana Tech to take a full-time position as secondary coach. Baker is on a fast track—Harsin was impressed with him as a graduate assistant at Texas and brought him to Arkansas State as safeties coach last year.
KTVB reports that Middleton’s Erik Fisher is out of the super combined at the Winter Olympics after an MRI revealed extensive knee damage. During a training run in Sochi, Fisher tweaked an injury suffered earlier this season in World Cup competition. He’ll fly home this weekend. Elsewhere in the Games, Boise biathlete Sara Studebaker placed 51st in the women's 10K pursuit after finishing 44th in the 7.5K sprint on Saturday. Simi Hamilton, who trains in Sun Valley, did not advance in the men's cross country individual free sprint yesterday, finishing sixth in his quarterfinal heat. Hamilton was 27th overall. And women’s halfpipe qualification is now scheduled for today, with Sun Valley’s Kaitlyn Farrington going off in the second heat.
The Boise State men’s golf team teed off the season with not one top 5 individual finish, but two. Logan France and Ty Travis tied for third place at the Thunderbird Invitational in St. George, UT, yesterday, keying a third place team finish for the Broncos. France and Travis each came in at four-under on the Sunbrook Golf Club course. Travis, a junior, now has three top 10 finishes in six tournaments since joining the Boise State squad and has finished in the top 25 at each event. For France, a sophomore, the finish is the best of his career and his second top 10 effort of the season.
Chakala Carthen of the College of Idaho has been named the national NAIA Division II Player of the Week after posting her 14th double-double of the season in the Lady Yotes’ 67-64 win over Eastern Oregon last Friday. Carthen scored 19 points and had 16 rebounds. And the C of I men are up to No. 6 in the NAIA Division II poll, riding an eight-game winning streak. The Coyotes are now 21-5.
This Day In Sports…February 12, 1934:
The birthday of a player who changed the game of basketball. Bill Russell was the NBA’s first black superstar, leading the Boston Celtics to 11 championships in 13 years. His rebounding prowess remains legendary—Russell collected 1,000 or more rebounds in 12 of his 13 seasons and once pulled down 51 boards in a game in 1960. The five-time NBA Most Valuable Player also won two national championships at the University of San Francisco and was captain of the U.S. team that won the gold medal at the 1956 Summer Olympics. Bill Russell…80 years old today. And happy 20th birthday to my son, Mark.
(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.)