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Unspoken truth: it was a must-win

Unspoken truth: it was a must-win

by Tom Scott

Bio | Follow: @thescottslant


Posted on February 21, 2013 at 8:39 AM

Thursday, February 21, 2013.

It was a game Boise State had to have, and coach Leon Rice said as much after the Broncos dispatched Air Force last night 77-65.  They need to position themselves for the postseason.  If it’s not going to be the NCAA Tournament, Boise State would like a shot at the NIT rather than one of the second-level alphabet soup tourneys.  “We’ve been getting some help in our RPI because of the great conference we play in,” said Rice last night on his KBOI postgame show.  “But sooner or later you’ve got to get some things done by yourself.”  Boise State did it to Air Force with blitzes at the beginning of each half, building a 21-point lead in the second half and coasting home against a Falcons team that throttled the Broncos in Colorado Springs last month.  “It’s that will-to-win kind of thing,” Rice said.  “Our guys weren’t going to let that get away from them.”

One question going into the game: would Boise State points leader Derrick Marks be tempted to go toe-to-toe with Air Force star Michael Lyons in a scoring contest, knowing that Lyons was coming off a 45-point performance?  Well, Marks was content on this night to be the consummate team player, dishing out nine assists and committing only one turnover while scoring 11 points.  It’s the type of Derrick Marks you can probably expect to see down the line as a junior and senior.  As for Lyons, who was held to just 10 points, did Rice and his staff lay down a challenge?  “Oh yeah,” exclaimed the coach.  “Our guys took a lot of pride in that.  Those guys responded.”  The Broncos rotated a lot of different bodies on Lyons defensively.

While Anthony Drmic was leading the Broncos with 23 points, Jeff Elorriaga allayed concerns over his poor shooting night last Saturday at New Mexico.  The junior guard hit five three-pointers and scored 17 points.  Not to forget that Elorriaga was sidelined with a concussion in the first Boise State-Air Force meeting.  The other concern coming out of Albuquerque was presence in the paint.  Ryan Watkins scored 24 points with 13 rebounds the first time these teams met last month with Kenny Buckner still suspended.  Last Saturday at New Mexico, Watkins went scoreless and Buckner put up four points, though Buckner did pull down 11 rebounds.  Last night, the duo combined to go 6-of-7 from the field and grab 17 boards.

If you can’t name the turf the “Bleymaier Blue” (which would be kind of out there), you may as well name the new Boise State Football Complex in Bronco Stadium’s north end zone after former athletic director Gene Bleymaier.  Boise State will ask the State Board of Education for permission today.  The idea actually germinated nine months before Bleymaier was fired in 2011, as lead donors Larry Williams and Jerry Caven made the suggestion at the time of their donation.  Old controversy aside, there were some classy quotes in the university’s press release.  “Besides enjoying unprecedented success on the field of play and in the classroom, Boise State athletics also significantly improved its facilities under Bleymaier’s direction,” said Boise State Athletic Director Mark Coyle. 

Bleymaier, now the AD at San Jose State, led the Broncos’ athletic programs for 29½ years.  His signature moment came when he had the blue turf installed in 1986.  But it’s amazing to think of all the structures that materialized during his tenure.  They include (but are not limited to) the Stueckle Sky Center, the Caven-Williams indoor facility, the Arguinchona Basketball Complex, Dona Larsen Park, the Allen Noble Hall of Fame Gallery, the Appleton Tennis Center, and the Jacksons Indoor Track in Nampa.

Boise State’s D.J. Harper starts the NFL Combine process today in Indianapolis.  Over the next three days there will be team interviews, measurements, medical exams—and, of course, the infamous Wonderlic test.  Harper and the rest of the running backs will hit the weights Saturday and the on-field drills Sunday. rates Harper as the No. 26 running back going into April’s NFL Draft.  That’s not high enough to be selected.  But you never know.  That’s why guys like Harper are interesting studies.  He’s spent two healthy, productive seasons in Boise State’s backfield since knee injuries abbreviated his 2009 and 2010 campaigns.  Bronco cornerback Jamar Taylor will start the Combine rigmarole Saturday.

The Boise State track and field teams rarely host outdoor meets, but they’re home near every weekend during the indoor season.  The Broncos have one more winter home meet to go, the Mountain West Indoor Track and Field Championships today through Saturday on the Jacksons Indoor Track at the Idaho Center.  It’s the first time the conference meet has been hosted by Boise State (the NCAA Indoor Championships were held here last March).  The action begins today with the women’s pentathlon and the men’s heptathlon.  All nine members of the Mountain West field teams for women’s indoor track, while the men’s side includes just Air Force, Boise State, Colorado State, New Mexico, and Wyoming.

The Idaho Stampede and Springfield Armor played a good one last night in CenturyLink Arena.  Unfortunately for the home team, the visitors won 107-105 on a putback at the buzzer by Willie Reed.  There were seven lead changes and 12 ties, four of them in the final five minutes of the game before Springfield gave Bob MacKinnon, the one-time Stampede coach, a homecoming win.  The defeat spoiled a 30-point night by the Stamps’ Durrell Summers as the fomer Michigan State star went 11-of-19 from the field.  The Stampede and Armor tangle again tonight.

The Idaho Steelheads will be back home this weekend, but defenseman Jace Coyle and forward Tristan King won’t be.  Not shockingly, both have been reassigned to the Texas Stars of the AHL.  Just another day at the office for Steelheads coach Brad Ralph.  Coyle has scored 30 points this season, nine of them in his past eight games.  King has registered 37 points this campaign, 11 of them in his past six games.  He had a five-point blitz in a win at Utah a week and a half ago.  The Coyle-less and King-less (among others) Steelies host the San Francisco Bulls tomorrow night and Saturday night at CenturyLink Arena.  But the Bulls will be Rylan Galiardi-less.  The 26-year-old forward has been traded to the Steelheads.

This Day In Sports…February 21, 2003, 10 years ago today:

At the age of 40, Michael Jordan becomes the oldest player ever to score 40 points or more in an NBA game, putting up 43 in the Washington Wizards’ 89-86 victory over the New Jersey Nets.  Despite the fact it was his final year, Jordan was the only Wizard to play in all 82 games that season.  And he averaged 20 points and six rebounds per game.

(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.)