Friday, February 21, 2014.
It’s been three weeks. That’s like yesterday to Boise State players and coaches. Their 73-69 loss at UNLV was a stomach-turner, punctuated as it was by a 17-2 Rebels run to end the game. The Broncos outshot and outrebounded UNLV, and they didn’t trail from the 14:44 mark of the first half until 1:17 remained in the game. But they couldn’t make a play in the final minutes, and it had people questioning their intestinal fortitude. Especially after Boise State followed that with its come-from-ahead loss at home against No. 5 San Diego State. Suddenly the Broncos are rejuvenated after reversing course in the win over New Mexico at home and their first victory ever at Colorado State. Tomorrow night in Taco Bell Arena, they have a shot at not at a signature win, but a quality one in the rematch versus the Rebels.
The New Mexico game last week had the potential to top the 10,000 mark in the stands, but that hope was punctured by Boise State’s early February slump. The attendance that night was a disappointing 6,329. There’s been a big push for the UNLV game, and there’s buzz out there. Can the crowd top the season high of 9,602 against San Diego State? How about that 10,000 threshold that the Broncos exceeded four times last season? The Rebels aren’t the elite team this year that they have been, but they’re still a brand name.
UNLV is anxious to atone for its 68-56 loss to New Mexico in the Thomas & Mack Center Tuesday night. It was symbolic of maddeningly inconsistent season for the Rebels. They shot 32 percent against the Lobos and went 3-for-21 from three-point range. And they were a bit unsettled in the locker room as well. Point guard Deville Smith was benched to start the game for reportedly being late to a team bus on the Utah State trip last weekend and again for a shoot-around before Wednesday’s game. Smith’s teammates—and coach Dave Rice—were none too happy with him. In Las Vegas it’s seen as a significant issue for this team.
Since the Boise State-Nevada football series will go on hiatus for two years after this season, we may as well get another regional rivalry established. The new Mountain West schedule has the Broncos hosting Utah State in the regular season finale November 29. That’s a perfect place for that game. Boise State downed the Aggies 34-23 in October, but USU went on to win the Mountain Division championship and picked up an impressive Poinsettia Bowl win over Northern Illinois. The Broncos’ season didn’t end so favorably. It’s a rivalry that’s ready to come of age. Other schedule highlights: back-to-back blue turf dates against Fresno State and BYU in October, with bye weeks on either end. And there’s that trip to Reno to face the Wolf Pack October 4. The season opens with the Chick-fil-A Kickoff versus Ole Miss in the Georgia Dome on August 28.
If you go by NFLDraftScout.com, Boise State’s Charles Leno Jr. is on reasonably solid ground going into his workouts tomorrow at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. The site has Leno rated 13th out of 153 offensive tackles entering the draft in May and projects him to go in the fourth or fifth round. The Broncos’ Matt Paradis also goes through drills tomorrow with the offensive linemen. It’s an intense weekend that includes the 40-yard dash, bench press, vertical jump, broad jump, three-cone drill and shuttle run. Demarcus Lawrence undergoes testing with the defensive linemen on Monday.
What can you say about US women’s hockey? It was a devastating result in the gold medal tilt—another loss to Canada in a game that was in hand. Sun Valley’s Hilary Knight was in the middle of it, taking a cross-checking penalty in overtime that she called “bogus,” but that others thought was blatant enough to warrant a penalty shot. It was 39 seconds later that the Canadians scored, winning 3-2. Knight had fed Alex Carpenter a perfect pass for the power play goal that gave the US a 2-0 lead with 18 minutes left in the third period.
As the Sochi Games wind down, Sun Valley’s Jessica Campbell was set to ski the slalom for the US Virgin Islands this morning, Boise biathlete Sara Studebaker goes off today in the 4x6 relay, and former Boise State track captain Nick Cunningham hopes to wipe out the memory of a 13th-place finish in the two-man bobsled as he moves to the four-man competition tomorrow.
The Idaho Steelheads play tonight on the road and tomorrow night at home against…who else but Utah? Why this steady diet of Grizzlies? Tonight’s game in West Valley City wasn’t originally on Idaho's schedule. It was added last month when the ECHL schedule had to be re-done following the folding of the San Francisco Bulls franchise. Tomorrow’s contest in CenturyLink Arena was supposed to be versus the Las Vegas Wranglers, but Utah was inserted in the schedule shuffle. The Steelies are 4-3 against the Grizzlies this season with four games left to play against them.
Well, it was the best run by any player in Idaho Stampede history, and now it’s over. Tired of waiting for a call from the NBA—and the money that goes with it—Pierre Jackson has decided to leave the club for much bigger bucks in Istanbul, Turkey. The NBA trade deadline passed yesterday without the New Orleans Pelicans dealing his rights to another team, so off he goes. Jackson leaves after leading the D-League in scoring for most of the season, finishing with 29.1 points per game. The former Baylor and College of Southern Idaho star poured in 903 points and had a shot at the D-League record of 1,300 by Albuquerque’s Will Conroy in 2008-09. How about this: Jackson’s last game in Boise was the one in which he set the D-League record with 58 points against Texas on February 4. No Pierre tonight when the Stamps visit the L.A. D-Fenders.
Boise’s Brian Scott will start from the No. 12 position in Sunday’s Daytona 500 after finishing fifth last night in the second of two Budweiser Duels. It will be easily the biggest race of the 26-year-old Boisean’s life. The second duel was uneventful until the final turn, when defending Daytona 500 champion Jimmie Johnson ran out of gas. That caused a fiery wreck involving at least six cars—Scott’s wasn’t among them. None of the drivers were injured.
The Boise State men’s tennis team returns to the site of one of its biggest 2013 triumphs this weekend as it opens play this morning against Alabama at the Blue Gray National Tennis Classic. The Broncos are defending champions at the Montgomery, AL, event, where they swept Nebraska, Notre Dame, and Texas Tech last year. “This is our Bracket Buster tournament,” said Boise State coach Greg Patton.
Other campus doings: The 16th-ranked Boise State gymnastics team returns to Taco Bell Arena tonight to host San Jose State. The meet is designated as the annual “Pink Night” in support of Breast Cancer Awareness. The Boise State swimming and diving team, the title favorite, has a 37-point lead after Day 2 of the Mountain West Championships in San Antonio. The College of Idaho baseball team opens the home season against Whitworth with a single game today, a doubleheader tomorow, and another solo contest Sunday at Wolfe Field. And the C of I ski and snowboard team is hosting the USCSA Western Regionals at Brundage Mountain in McCall. Still to go are the men’s giant slalom today and the men’s and women’s slalom tomorrow on Brundage’s iconic Alpine run.
This Day In Sports…February 21, 2002:
Dane Spencer finishes 16th in the giant slalom at Park City, wrapping up very respectable performances by three Boiseans at the 2002 Winter Olympics. Earlier in the Salt Lake Games, the late Jeret Peterson had placed ninth in the freestyle aerials, and snowboarder Lisa Kosglow had made it to the quarterfinals in the parallel giant slalom (the PGS). It was the first Olympiad for Spencer and Peterson, while Kosglow had also competed in the 1998 Winter Games at Nagano.
(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.)