Thursday, March 7, 2013.
The drama surrounding the Boise State-San Diego State regular season finale Saturday boils down to the pins-and-needles exercise of watching the NCAA Tournament bubble. Because the only thing that appears to be at stake concerning next week’s Mountain West Tournament is the color of the uniforms each team will wear in the quarterfinals in Las Vegas. It looks increasingly likely that the Broncos and Aztecs will finish as the No. 4 and No. 5 seeds (order to be determined) and will play each other in the first round. The fourth seed will be the home team—the fifth seed will be the visitor. As far as the NCAA picture goes, bracketologist Jerry Palm was on Idaho SportTalk yesterday and said he still has Boise State as an 11 or 12 seed “for now.” Palm does say a win at UNLV would have really helped. “It was a lost opportunity.”
“Aztecs win ugly on Senior Night” reads the headline in the San Diego Union-Tribune. San Diego State defeated Air Force last night 58-51 and is in sole possession of fourth place in the Mountain West going into Saturday’s clash. The Aztecs are 9-6, and the Broncos are 8-7. Air Force is 7-8 but is unlikely to tie Boise State even if the Broncos fall to SDSU. The Falcons host No. 12 New Mexico Saturday.
Boise State’s “glue guy” seems to have his adhesive back together. Junior Jeff Elorriaga is as hot now as he was 10 weeks ago after going 5-of-10 from three-point range with 19 points at UNLV. That type of production will be needed against San Diego State Saturday. Elorriaga had effectively been a spectator on the floor during Derrick Mark’s 38-point night last Saturday and played only 23 minutes against Nevada a week ago due to an arm injury. He scored 12 points combined in those games. But he had logged 37 points in the two games before that (wins over Air Force and Fresno State). Going into the week, Elorriaga was tops in the Mountain West and fifth in the nation in three-point accuracy at 45.5 percent. He is now 12 treys away from Abe Jackson’s Boise State single-season record of 92 set in 2001-02.
I didn’t hear any complaints from the Broncos Tuesday night. But outspoken columnist Ed Graney of the Las Vegas Review-Journal had some choice things to say about the officials after the Boise State-UNLV game. Opined Graney, “I wrote it last week: College basketball officials are so bad, particularly this season, complaints from any corner of the game should hold no weight. It's no longer some big mystery that many officials work too much and are incompetent for it. Officials are so bad some nights, it's almost impossible to think they favor one side or the other anymore. I'm not even sure they would know how.”
From there, Graney didn’t take the tack you’d expect: “(Derrick) Marks is Boise State's best player who fouled out in 18 minutes, amazing when three of the five infractions against him came via flops or phantom calls. Anthony Drmic is the team's leading scorer who was limited to 27 minutes, fouling out with 1:03 left in a three-point game. ‘No question, Boise State is much better with Marks and Drmic on the floor,’ said UNLV coach Dave Rice.”
Dezmyn Trent could have waited longer to see if an offer from Oregon State was forthcoming, but he wanted to get it done, and the Tacoma high school star has committed to the Boise State basketball program. Trent credited Bronco assistant John Rillie, who played at Tacoma Community College and Gonzaga. Trent, a 6-4 all-state shooting guard who averaged 27 points a game this season, told the Tacoma News-Tribune he “bonded” with Rillie after being recruited by him for more than two years. Trent is scheduled to make his official visit to the Boise State campus this weekend. It’ll be a tailor-made atmosphere in Taco Bell Arena Saturday.
In advance of the dawn of Boise State spring football Monday, coach Chris Petersen spent an hour covering a range of subjects yesterday on Idaho SportsTalk. As expected, there was no additional light shed on the dismissals of safety Lee Hightower and tight end Hayden Plinke following their October suspensions. But the agony of the process was evident. “You just think about your kids—you’ve got 100 kids there,” said Petersen. “There’s going to be issues, and it’s painful. When you cross the line, you cross the line.” And that’s the exception, Petersen said. “I think most of our guys take a lot of pride (in our standards).” Along those lines, the coach said he has talked to troubled NFL wide receiver and former Bronco Titus Young. “If they knew, I think everybody would back off,” said Petersen. “We just hope that he can get back on track.”
Also interesting was Petersen’s response on the unusually high number of junior college transfers Boise State signed this winter (there are six). Especially the subject of running backs, where imposing 6-1, 210-pounder Derrick Thomas has come aboard out of Butler Community College in Kansas. Is it because there’s a stark need at that position, which is currently stocked by Jay Ajayi, Jack Fields, Devan Demas and true freshman Aaron Baltazar? “You have ideal numbers and classes at every position,” said Petersen. “You have five guys in five classes (now at running back)—it’s nothing more, nothing less.” Thomas, Fields and Demas will get plenty of reps this spring, as Ajayi will probably be limited to preserve his big body (and the knee he injured in 2011 while redshirting).
The Idaho Steelheads and Colorado Eagles skated in a penalty parade last night in CenturyLink Arena. There were 15 infractions whistled, resulting in 15 power plays. The Eagles scored twice on the man-advantage and the Steelheads once, and that was the extent of the scoring in Colorado’s 2-1 victory. The Eagles peppered the Steelies with 41 shots on goal for the second consecutive night, with Tyler Beskorowany recording 39 saves in the loss. Idaho’s lone goal was scored by Tyler Gron, giving him 26 points in only 24 games with the Steelheads. It’s only the fifth home defeat in regulation this season for the Steelies, and it snaps an eight-game point streak. Next up is intersectional hockey, as the Gwinnett Gladiators visit Boise this weekend.
The Idaho Stampede take a modest but much-embraced two-game winning streak into tonight’s game at Reno. The Stamps would have to win all 14 of their remaining games to achieve a winning season. One guy to follow right now is former Boise State standout Jason Ellis, who has double-digit rebounds in four of the past five games, including a combined 37 in the past three. At the age of 30, Ellis is just enjoying every minute of playing time he can get.
In women’s hoops, Boise State fell 70-60 to UNLV in its home finale at Taco Bell Arena. Former Eagle Mustang Lauren Lenhardt made her mark on Senior Night by leading the Broncos with 18 points, 16 of them in the second half. Also last night, the College of Idaho women advanced to the second round of the NAIA Division II National Tournament in Sioux City, IA, holding off Oklahoma Wesleyan 66-65 behind 25 points from Felicity Jones. The Lady Yotes face top-seeded Morningside of Iowa tomorrow night.
This Day In Sports…March 7, 1954:
The NBA experiments for one game with raising the baskets to 12 feet. Players had trouble finding the range, as the Lakers beat the Hawks, 65-63. That would be the Minneapolis Lakers and Milwaukee Hawks! Raising the baskets—even to 11 feet—is a subject that still arises with the NBA playing so far above the rim these days. But I would think it would be another negative on the league, since it’s become so difficult for NBA players to can the 15-foot jumper.
(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.)