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Into February—and still no signature win

Into February—and still no signature win

by Tom Scott

Bio | Follow: @thescottslant


Posted on February 3, 2014 at 8:30 AM

Updated Monday, Feb 3 at 8:30 AM

Monday, February 3, 2014.

Boise State will probably be in the postseason next month, but if the destination isn’t the NCAA Tournament, it can look back on Saturday night’s game at UNLV as a key culprit.  The Broncos led by 10 points at halftime and were up by 11 with under four minutes to go.  But they suffered the indignity of a 17-2 run by the Rebels from there on out and fell 73-69 in the Thomas & Mack Center.  In the final 3½ minutes, Boise State went 1-for-5 from the field including two misfires from beyond the arc, committed three turnovers—one of them a killer with a minute and a half left—and missed two free throws.  No time for moping, as No. 5 San Diego State comes to town Wednesday night.

The game was just as important to an emerging UNLV squad, which has won four straight and 12 of its past 15.  “Six weeks ago, we would have lost this game by 20,” said forward Khem Birch, who had 15 points, 15 rebounds and six blocks.  “I can’t lie; I’m surprised we won.  But the fact coach predicted the whole thing is crazy.”  Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist Ed Graney talks about that turn of events: “Dave Rice did what any coach would, telling his players in a timeout with 3:29 remaining that Birch would make the two free throws that awaited him, and that the Rebels would get enough stops and make enough shots to win.  Thing is, it rarely happens that way.” 

Boise State had to play the final 24 minutes of the game without senior guard Jeff Elorriaga, who went out late in the first half with an apparent back injury.  At that point, Elorriaga had hit his only field goal attempt of the night—a three-pointer, naturally.  What the Broncos missed with Elorriaga sidelined was not so much a scoring spark that could have countered UNLV’s late run, but leadership.  Elorriaga is constantly talking to his teammates, guiding them through offensive and defensive sets and building the mental tone.  That Boise State didn’t have the intestinal fortitude to withstand the Rebels’ rally at the end can be at least partly attributed to the fact that he wasn’t out there gluing things together.  Elorriaga’s status for Wednesday night’s game is impatiently awaited.  He was scoreless at San Diego State four weeks ago, but that’s not entirely the point.

The lights were on at Bronco Stadium Saturday night.  That means the Bronco coaching staff was entertaining some guests on the blue turf.  It was an important weekend for recruiting visits—the last one before National Letter of Intent Day on Wednesday.  Two of the prospects in town committed quickly, junior college defensive ends Rondell McNair of Contra Costa College and Antoine Turner from Fullerton College.  McNair has a three-star rating from  Turner has no rating but an amazing story, starting with displacement after Hurricane Katrina in junior high.  “I was a non-qualifier and I came to California with no help, just me, by myself,” Turner told “I went homeless a couple of times. I met my girlfriend and her uncles took me in, got me into shape and I had an amazing season and now I have a chance to go to college.”

Recruiting chaos runs rampant, and it doesn’t affect just Boise State.  Just ask Texas A&M about Dylan Sumner-Gardner.  Or Washington about Chase Blakley.  Or ask Oregon about Budda Baker, the running back and defensive back from Bellevue High outside Seattle.  Baker decommitted from the Ducks two weeks ago and is now considering Washington after an official visit.  Baker’s impression of Chris Petersen’s UW staff, via the Seattle Times: “I got an impression that they care more about developing guys into a man instead of just football.”  Funny, that’s exactly what Charles Leno Jr. said about Petersen recently on Idaho SportsTalk.  Leno lived it for five years—and the offensive tackle doesn’t waver on that view now that he’s gone.  Hopefully Petersen is remembered that way by most, regardless of who’s flipping where right now.

While the Boise State swim team was routing Oregon State in the season finale Saturday at the West Y Aquatic Center, Deuce Maetele was wowing the crowd with a 10.0 backflip to win the Bronco football team’s third annual “Big Splash” competition.  Wait—Deuce Mataele?  The Statesman’s Chadd Cripe reported Saturday that the defensive lineman out of Mt. San Antonio College will be reinstated to the Boise State roster, eligible to play in 2015.  Mataele transferred to BSU in January last year and was stellar in spring football.  But fall camp never came for Mataele, who never enrolled for fall semester due to an old academic issue.

The Northwest has a Super Bowl champion fpr the first time.  Is Boise close enough to Seattle for the Seahawks’ resounding 43-8 victory over Denver last night to create an aura in the City of Trees?  Well, why not?  The Seahawks have whittled away at the Broncos’ advantage in local popularity to the point that they’re a strong No. 1 in NFL merchandise sales in the Treasure Valley.  And hey, KTIK finally got them back on the radio this season.  Roll with it.

Graham DeLaet climbed into contention yesterday and earned CBS airtime in the final round of the Phoenix Open—more and more airtime as the day went on.  The former Boise State star made another weekend charge and picked up his second consecutive second-place finish on the PGA Tour, trying with Bubba Watson just one stroke behind winner Kevin Stadler.  For Stadler, the 2006 Albertsons Boise Open champion, it was victory No. 1 on the big circuit.  DeLaet came into focus on the 14th hole after he had pulled to within two shots of the lead.  As he lined up a seven-foot birdie putt, the CBS crew noted he was 55-for-55 from inside eight feet for the tournament.  DeLaet slid it past the cup and had to settle for par—“56-for-57,” said Jim Nance.  DeLaet then bogeyed 15, but he birdied 17 and 18 and took home another $545,600. 

The Idaho Steelheads salvaged one of their three games in Anchorage Saturday night, breaking a third period tie with Alaska and pulling away for a 4-2 victory.  That came on the heels of an exhausting night Friday in which the Aces outlasted the Steelheads in a seven-round shootout for a 3-2 win.  Tommy Grant was esepcially effective for the Steelies in the series, and it was especially appropriate.  Grant played his college hockey at Alaska-Anchorage and celebrated his homecoming with a goal in each game.  Idaho comes out of the trip north tied for third in the ECHL Mountain Division, 10 points behind the Aces.  The Steelheads are back in CenturyLink Arena Wednesday night to host the Utah Grizzlies.

CenturyLink Arena was the place to be over the weekend for hoops explosions.  In consecutive games between the Idaho Stampede and the L.A.D-Fenders, D-League season-highs in individual scoring were set.  The D-Fenders’ Terrance Williams put up 50 points Friday night in a 135-127 win, only to be topped by the Stampede’s Kevin Murphy with 51 points Saturday night as the Stamps turned the tables in a 127-123 victory.  Murphy, in just his 10th game with Idaho, netted 31 points in the first half and went 21-of-33 from the field overall.  The Tennessee Tech product had 85 points for the weekend.  The Stampede host the Texas Legends tomorrow night.

Wrapping up campus stuff: the Boise State women’s basketball team won its sixth straight Saturday, pummeling UNLV 79-49.  The Broncos are now in sole possession of second place in the Mountain West with a 7-2 record.  The BSU wrestling team thumped Northern Colorado 27-10 at home Friday night but saw Utah Valley State rally for a 23-18 victory on the road yesterday.  The Bronco men’s tennis team stopped Arizona 5-2 yesterday in Tucson.  The College of Idaho men’s basketball team reached the 20-win plateau for the first time in nine years by sweeping Concordia and Warner Pacific in Caldwell.  And, it’s baseball season!  The C of I opened its season with a sweep of Bethesda University yesterday in Anaheim.

This Day In Sports…February 3, 2008:

In the NFL’s biggest upset since the Jets’ win over Baltimore guaranteed by Joe Namath in Super Bowl III, the New York Giants derail New England’s hopes for a perfect season with a 17-14 stunner in Super Bowl XLII.  MVP Eli Manning, a year after his brother Peyton was MVP in the Colts’ win over the Bears, hit Plaxico Burriss on a 13-yard fade for the winning touchdown with 35 seconds left to cap an 83-yard drive.  The Patriots had set an NFL record for points and were 18-0, but the 1972 Dolphins remained the NFL’s only undefeated team.

(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.)