BOISE, Idaho — Tuesday, February 11, 2020.
Boise State’s first game against Air Force came four weeks ago. The Broncos suffered a frustrating 85-78 loss in Colorado Springs. The next time out, the light finally went on for the Broncos (at least it did with 4:10 left versus Utah State) in one of the great comebacks in school history. That was seen as a season-turning game for Boise State, and it’s up to the Broncos to keep things from turning the other way tonight in the rematch with the Academy at ExtraMile Arena. The Falcons haven’t won a game since taking down Boise State and are 3-9 in the Mountain West. But these aren’t the back-cutting boys of old; they can score points. Air Force put up 74 against undefeated San Diego State on Saturday, the most the Aztecs have allowed this season. Tonight’s game is yet another crossroads contest.
BRONCOS HOPE DERRICK DIGS IN
While Derrick Alston is slumping, Justinian Jessup is going to have to be Mr. Reliable for Boise State. Alston has scored a combined nine points the past two games, both on the road. He combined for 51 points the two games before that—both at home. Alston went almost 60 minutes of floor time without making a basket, from late in the win over Nevada, through the win at Wyoming, until four minutes into the second half in the loss at Utah State Saturday night. Jessup, on the other hand, scored a team-high 20 points at USU and has put up at least 15 in each of the past six games. Every three-pointer Jessup hits now is a new Mountain West record. He hit No. 300 early in the second half in Logan.
THE AUSSIE’S OPPORTUNITY
Coach Leon Rice has already had to jockey his rotations with Abu Kigab having missed the past 2½ games. The sooner he can get Kigab back, the better (and it might be tonight). Saturday night at Utah State, he had to fit a square peg into a round hole with Riley Abercrombie bumping up against Aggies 7-footer Neemias Queta while the fouled-out R.J. Williams and Robin Jorch sat on the bench. Abercrombie played admirably in a tough situation, logging a career-high 17 minutes. The 6-9 Australian scored four points, including the first dunk of his career, grabbed a career-high three rebounds and dished out an assist. But Abercrombie did go 0-for-5 from beyond the arc.
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THE AZTECS’ GLASS CEILING
San Diego State is 24-0, the only unbeaten team in the country and will probably remain so when they visit ExtraMile Arena this Sunday afternoon. But the Aztecs appear to have peaked in the polls, stuck again this week at No. 4. Nobody on SDSU’s schedule is floating the Aztecs’ boat to higher water. That’s not going to change when they host a disjointed New Mexico team tonight in Viejas Arena (and on ESPN2). San Diego State was the No. 1 seed in the East Region in the NCAA Tournament selection committee’s first projection for the top 16 seeds over the weekend. The Aztecs were the fourth overall seed behind Baylor, Kansas and Gonzaga.
FENNEGAN IS NOT A TROJAN
It was much ado about nothing: the thought that quarterback Cade Fennegan would bail on his non-binding Financial Agreement from Boise State in order to attend USC. The Broncos announced Monday that they have officially signed Fennegan to a National Letter of Intent. The university’s explanation: “Fennegan was unable to sign his NLI this past week due to being on a mission in Argentina, but had previously signed a Financial Aid Agreement. He is scheduled to join Boise State this summer for workouts upon returning from his mission.” Fennegan is the third scholarship QB on the Broncos roster behind Hank Bachmeier and Chase Cord. (In his photo, Fennegan looks like he could be Bachmeier’s brother.)
BOLT ON THE ‘HOMETOWN HERO’ PATH?
Today we drift into the list of “instant-impact true freshman” for each team in ESPN’s “Way Too Early Top 25.” We can go there because Boise State is ranked No. 18. And for the Broncos, it’s Borah High star Austin Bolt. The synopsis from Tom Van Haaren: “Bolt is an interesting prospect who played a number of positions in high school, from quarterback to safety to wide receiver. He is likely going to be a pass-catching tight end in Boise State's offense and could see the field early. He's 6-foot-4, 200 pounds and is very athletic for his size. A few other defensive prospects might fit the bill here too, but it seems as though Bolt's athleticism will help him find the field early.” Perhaps Van Haaren watched Bolt in the Blue-Grey All-American Bowl.
MATT MILLER’S RECORD BOOK WISH
That was a great interview on Sunday Sports Extra with new Boise State wide receivers coach (and former Broncos star) Matt Miller. He was reserved as a player, but he speaks passionately as a coach. Jay Tust asked Miller how anxious he is to see his major Boise State records fall, such as 244 career receptions and 88 single-season catches. “I don’t want any of the records,” said Miller, only half-grinning. “I want those records broken. It’s a personal goal for one of my guys to go break those records, ‘cuz I’m tired of talkin’ about ‘em.”
LINEHAN FAMILY UPDATE
Kellen Moore’s mentor in Detroit and Dallas, Scott Linehan, has landed a gig as passing game coordinator at LSU. Linehan, a one-time Idaho quarterback, was fired as Cowboys offensive coordinator at the end of the 2018 season, to be replaced by Moore. Joining a national champion sounds like a pretty good deal, but the Tigers do have to replace quarterback Joe Burrow, and Linehan’s predecessor, Joe Brady, won the Broyles Award as national assistant coach of the year before leaving for the Carolina Panthers. Still trying to confirm that Linehan’s son Matt, a more recent former Idaho quarterback, has joined San Diego State as a graduate assistant. Matt’s Twitter account indicates that, but there’s been no official announcement from the school.
THIS DAY IN SPORTS…February 11, 1970, 50 years ago today:
Elgin Baylor, the former College of Idaho star, and Jerry West score 43 points each for the L.A. Lakers—but it takes a 41-16 fourth quarter blitz to beat the Golden State Warriors, 125-115, in the Cow Palace. On the same evening, at the bottom of California Highway 1, the Atlanta Hawks score an NBA-record 97 second half points in a 155-131 win over the San Diego Rockets. That’s better than a four-points-per-minute pace.
(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 FM KTIK. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)