Monday, March 11, 2013.
If NCAA Tournament berths are decided on hot-scoring duos, Boise State is in. The superstitious among us don’t like to go down such far-fetched trails, though. The Broncos beat a higher-rated San Diego State squad Saturday 69-65, but they might need one more victory to ensure an at-large berth in the Dance. Derrick Marks and Anthony Drmic tried to will Boise State into the tournament Saturday, putting up 27 and 23 points, respectively. Marks and Drmic scored every single Bronco point in the final 14½ minutes of the game. Marks had another monster second half, scoring 22 points after the break. But he’ll be remembered in this game as much for his block of a Xavier Thames lay-in with 21 seconds remaining. Marks is getting All-Mountain West consideration as much for his defense as his well-chronicled scoring acumen.
Boise State’s third-leading scorer in the game behind Marks and Drmic wasn’t Jeff Elorriaga, nor Ryan Watkins, nor Mikey Thompson. It was increasingly important reserve Thomas Bropleh with six points. That’s not to say there weren’t significant contributions elsewhere. The Broncos’ lone senior, Kenny Buckner, gathered in a team-high 11 rebounds despite not scoring a point. Four of them were on the offensive glass, giving Boise State cherished second chances on an afternoon that saw each team shoot exactly the same from the field (22-of-55). It was an emotional Senior Day for Buckner, and an emotional win for his team. Now the Broncos turn right around and play the Aztecs again in the quarterfinals of the Mountain West Tournament Wednesday night in Las Vegas (that’s late Wednesday night—a 10 p.m. start MDT).
With a crowd of 10,455 in Taco Bell Arena Saturday, Boise State finished the season (pending another possible home date in a non-NCAA postseason tournament) averaging 6,394 fans per game, the most in 12 years. It’s an increase of more than 2,000 a game over last season. And the four crowds of 10,000-plus this season were the most for the Broncos in 24 years. Boise State has taken a page out of the Bogus Basin/Brundage Mountain book and unveiled an “Early Bird” season ticket sale for 2013-14. And why not? Strike while the iron is hot. Season tickets are only $159 apiece—new buyers have until April 19 to purchase. Come to think of it, the Idaho Steelheads are doing a version of this sale themselves.
Boise State spring football opens today, and it starts without any changes in the Broncos’ core coaching staff after they lost Brent Pease, Marcel Yates and Jeff Choate last year. “I think we have an unbelievable staff, I really do,” said coach Chris Petersen. “That’s how we’re able to lose that many (assistants) and still get 11 wins.” The three newcomers on the staff in 2012 were Jimmy Lake (secondary), Andy Avalos (defensive line), and Jonathan Smith (quarterbacks). Lake turned the secondary into the strength of the defense, Avalos kept the D-line scotch-taped together through a season-ending injury to Mike Atkinson, and Smith had an unenviable task that he relished, working with whoever was going to replace Kellen Moore. By the end of the season, Joe Southwick had filled the bill as much as anyone could hope for.
When Petersen talks about one of the tenets of the new book he co-authored, “Wise Beyond Your Field: How Creative Leaders Out Innovate to Out Perform,” it sounds like he’s already applying it to his offensive playbook. Everybody likes to be in a groove, especially a football team. “But if that groove starts to get too deep, it turns into a rut,” said Petersen at last Thursday’s press conference introducing the book. “It turns into staleness and boredom. We want to stay in a structure and routine but we want to bring creativity so we have energy and focus.” That relates directly to the Boise State offense.
One of the offseason projects for Petersen and his staff has been to clean out the Broncos’ offensive closet. The Boise State offensive coaches have been hoarders, adding dozens of plays every year since Petersen’s first year as offensive coordinator in 2001. “There’s not a play out there that I don’t like,” said Petersen. But, he added, “What we really need to do is strip things down.” Once the playbook is streamlined, Boise State can really refine its offense. “It all comes down to teaching—you’ve just got to be able to teach it, and your guys have to be able to pick it up, so you can execute it.”
Sometimes you just have to tip the cap to an opponent, and that’s what the Idaho Steelheads did after a 2-0 loss to Gwinnett Saturday night in CenturyLink Arena. One Gladiator in particular, as goalie Louie Domingue stopped all 40 shots he faced from the ECHL’s top-scoring team, escaping a slew of on-point shots by the Steelheads. It was the first time the Steelies had been shut out at home all season. The Idaho loss came on the heels of a solid performance Friday night, a 5-3 victory that saw newly-arrived rookie Chase Schaber, fresh out of the University of Lethbridge, score the game-winning goal. Rookies picked up eight of the Steelheads’ 13 points in the win. After a nine-game homestand, the Steelies now embark on their only trip to Alaska of the regular season for games against the Aces Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.
Graham DeLaet made another $44,100 on the PGA Tour yesterday by finishing in a tie for 18th at the Puerto Rico Open. DeLaet birdied two of the final three holes yesterday to salvage a two-under 70 and come in 13-under for the tournament. The former Boise State star played the weekend for the third straight time and has now made the cut in five of his seven tour events this season. His 2013 winnings now total $423,924.
Campus notes from the weekend: Boise State’s Emma Bates earned second-team All-America honors in the 5000-meters at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships Friday night. Bates finished 14th in the competition at the University of Arkansas. And a 12th-place finish in yesterday's Snowboard Giant Slalom was enough for the College of Idaho's McKinley Carbone to win the USCSA Combined Snowboard national championship at Sun Valley. Carbone won national titles earlier in the competition in the Slopestyle and Snowboardcross. She becomes fifth combined national champion in the nearly 50-year history of the C of I program and the first in 18 years.
Idaho’s Kyle Barone has been the beacon in an otherwise difficult Idaho basketball, and he was named the WAC Player of the Year yesterday. Barone averaged a double-double—18.2 points and 10.9 rebounds per game. The senior was impressive in his one Treasure Valley appearance of the year, a 24-point, 10-rebound night in a 78-68 loss to Boise State in CenturyLink Arena in December. The Vandals, with a 12-17 record, open WAC Tournament play as the sixth seed against third-seeded New Mexico State Wednesday afternoon at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.
The Idaho Stampede had a chance to get out of last place in the D-League West Division for the first time this season Saturday night, but Santa Cruz blitzed them in the fourth quarter to win 101-88 on the Central California coast. The final score doesn’t make it sound like a game that featured 22 lead changes. The Stampede had a nine-point advantage on the Warriors with 8:45 left in the game but were outscored a staggering 26-4 the rest of the way. The Stamps managed only nine fourth quarter points. They would now have to win each of their remaining 12 games to avoid a third straight losing season. The Stampede return to CenturyLink Arena Wednesday night against the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.
This Day In Sports…March 11, 1987:
Before what is still considered to be the loudest crowd in Pavilion history, Boise State beats Utah, 62-61, in its first-ever NIT game. The Broncos had a one-point lead when Albert Springs drove the length of the floor in the final seconds and was fouled by Arnell Jones. With 10,000-plus fans screaming at him, Springs missed both free throws to preserve BSU’s victory. One of the Utes’ starting guards was Borah High grad Tommy Connor—son of former Bronco coach Bus Connor—who scored 13 points in a return to his home city.
(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.)