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Boise State basketball: Pass it around

Boise State is at its best when it’s whipping the ball around—inside and out. Eventually, it ends up with a scorer. But the Broncos’ assists have slumped.
Credit: Marco Garcia
Boise State's Justinian Jessup chases down the ball against Georgia Tech during the Diamond Head Classic Sunday, Dec. 22, 2019, in Honolulu. Georgia Tech won 74-60.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020.

In a water-treading win over Wyoming and a thumping loss at Nevada, the Boise State men stopped helping.  As in, dishing out assists.  The Broncos let some air out of coach Leon Rice’s vision for his team this season, which is to get back to being a facilitating, share-the-ball type of team.  “We were way too low in our assists last year,” said Rice last month.  “We kind of had to micro-manage our offense.”  What will they do now, with UNLV coming to town Wednesday night?  Boise State had been pretty good in that department before the new year, averaging 14.3 assists over its first 14 games.  In the past two games, they’ve dished out only eight combined.  

ALSTON IS A FAMILIAR FOE NOW 

Mountain West teams know Derrick Alston a lot better than Boise State’s non-conference opponents, having watched him explode on the scene a year ago.  For the first time this season, Alston has gone consecutive games without scoring 20 points.  In fact, the streak is up to three.  Against Cal State Northridge 10 days ago, he posted 17 points while Abu Kigab was going off for 33.  Alston followed that with a bizarre night against Wyoming that saw him go 1-for-10 from the field and score just four points.  He was more like himself at Nevada, notching 15 points on 6-for-13 shooting.  What the Broncos need is the dominant Derrick they know.  UNLV heads into ExtraMile Arena a surprising 3-0 in the Mountain West, with a 17-point win over Utah State in the bank. 

AZTECS IN RARIFIED AIR 

After UNLV at ExtraMile Arena Wednesday, Boise State visits San Diego State on Saturday.  The Aztecs are now one of only two undefeated teams remaining in the country, and they’re up a whopping six spots this week in the AP Poll and five in the Coaches Poll—and now they’re No. 7 in both.  The only other unbeaten is No. 5 Auburn.  SDSU put the pinch on Mountain West preseason favorite Utah State Saturday night in a 77-69 win at Logan.  The Aztecs, now 15-0, have Wyoming on the road Wednesday night.  That shouldn’t be much of a problem.  San Diego State announced Monday night that Saturday’s game against the Broncos in Viejas Arena is sold out. 

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WILL MCCARTHY KEEP KELLEN?

Apparent new Dallas Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy apparently has his defensive coordinator, former San Francisco coach Mike Nolan.  But McCarthy still needs a coordinator on the offensive side, and NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reports that it could be Kellen Moore.  “McCarthy likes OC Kellen Moore, I’m told,” tweeted Rapoport.  “Nothing more firm than that, but it does seem like McCarthy is more than open to keeping him.”  But Caves & Prater of Idaho SportsTalk, among others, wondered Monday about the wisdom of Moore staying in Dallas.  If the Cowboys offense rolls next season, McCarthy would be poised to get the credit.  And if it doesn’t, Moore would be poised to take the blame.  Maybe it would be best for him to chart his own course.  But it would be awfully awkward to quit the Cowboys (if it was up to him). 

RELATED: Kellen Moore: Ah, to be a fly on the wall

MOUNTAIN WEST REPORT CARD 

With Nevada falling to Ohio last Friday, the Mountain West ended the bowl season at 4-3.  Boise State’s 38-7 loss to Washington in the Las Vegas Bowl was the worst of the bunch.  Two of the victors, Air Force and Wyoming, certainly served notice for next season in the Mountain Division.  The Falcons subdued Washington State in the Cheez-It Bowl 31-21 and has star offensive performers Donald Hammond III and Kadin Remsberg back this year.  The Cowboys roughed up Georgia State 38-17 in the Arizona Bowl with sophomore Xazavian Valladay rushing for 204 yards and freshman Levi Williams emerging as the Pokes’ next standout 6-5 quarterback.  Boise State has to travel to both Colorado Springs and Laramie in 2020. 

RELATED: Ohio beats Nevada 30-21 in Famous Idaho Potato Bowl

LIFE WITHOUT ROCKY LONG? 

San Diego State’s 48-11 annihilation of Central Michigan in the New Mexico Bowl featured a rare offensive explosion and left the Aztecs ecstatic.  But what will it all mean moving forward?  A surprising Twitter report from Pete Thamel of Yahoo Sports Monday said that SDSU coach Rocky Long “has been shopping himself for college defensive coordinator jobs.  That includes Syracuse, where he's visiting today.  Dino Babers has an open DC job.”  Maybe Long is tiring of being a head coach.  If so, it’s kind of déjà vu for him.  He left New Mexico’s head coaching post 11 years ago to become defensive coordinator at San Diego State.  Lo and behold, he was promoted to the top spot two seasons later.  Long turns 70 years old on January 27. 

HAMDAN’S AND SANFORD’S TRAVELS 

It’ll be interesting to see what role Bush Hamdan ends up in on Eliah Drinkwitz’s staff at Missouri.  Drinkwitz, the former Boise State offensive coordinator, hired Hamdan, the former Broncos quarterback, as an “offensive assistant” initially.  Hamdan was not retained by new coach Jimmy Lake at Washington when Chris Petersen stepped down.  The Huskies offense was inconsistent this season with Hamdan as its coordinator.  There’s no doubt what role Mike Sanford Jr. will play at Minnesota.  Sanford will be P.J. Fleck’s co-offensive coordinator, but he will be calling the plays for the Golden Gophers.  Sanford bounces back to the Power 5 after a failed stint as head coach at Western Kentucky and one season as O-coordinator at Utah State. 

TIP OF THE CAP TO I.S.T.

Today marks the 35th anniversary of KTIK’s Idaho SportsTalk, which was originally KIDO’s Idaho SportsTalk, a once-a-week sampling featuring Jeff Caves, a brash 24-year-old who wouldn’t take no for an answer, and Larry Polowski, an outspoken one-time Seattle Seahawk.  What was happening at the time?  Boise State football was coming off a 6-5 season, and Bronco basketball was in its second season under Bobby Dye, still two years away from the breakout campaign that kicked off the program’s late 80’s glory days.  Bronco Stadium seated 20,000 and still had green turf, and what is now ExtraMile Arena was still new—only 2½ years old.  Caves & Polowski, those ol’ sports broadcasting trailblazers, made IST happen.

THIS DAY IN SPORTS…January 7, 2013:

Notre Dame is No. 1 and Alabama is No. 2—until the Crimson Tide obliterate the Fighting Irish 42-14 in the BCS Championship Game.  The vaunted Irish defense was no match for the Tide and game MVP Eddie Lacy, who rushed for 140 yards and two touchdowns, sometimes through missed tackles by Notre Dame star linebacker Man’ti Teo.  The national title was the third in four years for Alabama and coach Nick Saban, and the word “dynasty” entered the conversation.  It was the seventh straight BCS crown captured by the SEC. 

(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.)