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Boise State basketball: Father-son has worked here

There was a polarizing situation at New Mexico four years ago, when the edgy Neal family roamed The Pit. History is not repeating itself at Boise State.
Credit: Steve Conner
Boise State's Max Rice handles the ball against San Diego State during an NCAA game, Sunday, Feb. 16, 2020, in Boise, Idaho. San Diego State won 72-55.

BOISE, Idaho — Tuesday, March 3, 2020.

When Max Rice committed to Boise State out of Bishop Kelly to play for his dad, Leon, I immediately thought of former New Mexico coach Craig Neal and his son, Cullen.  And when Craig Neal materialized on the staff at Nevada, the comparison rose to the surface again.  I was reasonably sure from the get-go that the Broncos wouldn’t have the same father-son experience the Lobos did.  Cullen Neal—and the amount of playing time he received—was a source of controversy in Albuquerque, and he ended up transferring after his sophomore season.  Craig Neal was fired by UNM a year later.  Leon Rice has been careful about Max’s role and where he can contribute, and he has indeed contributed.  In spot duty, he’s averaging 11.5 minutes and 2.9 points per game.

Rice’s most visible TV moment of his redshirt freshman year came last Wednesday at UNLV after a contested loose ball.  A Rebel won the battle for it against a Bronco but got testy.  Then, when play had stopped, Rice slapped the ball out of the UNLV player’s hands and was called for a technical foul.  That came with 28 seconds left in the game, after Rice had pulled down four rebounds, made one steal and dished out an assist while Boise State was trimming a 27-point deficit down to seven.  The hottest single stretch of Rice’s young career came in the first half at Wyoming last month, when he did his best Justinian Jessup impression and went 4-for-4 from beyond the arc before the intermission.  Those 12 points equaled his career-high. 

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ALL-MOUNTAIN WEST, MEDIA DIVISION

Justinian Jessup’s conference consistency has paid off, as the Boise State senior has been named first-team All-Mountain West by a media panel (the official coaches’ vote from the league will follow).  Jessup was not only the top Broncos scorer in Mountain West play, he also led the team in steals and blocked shots (of all things).  He was the top three-point shooter in the conference in league games, making 63 treys and shooting just under 44 percent from deep.  Jessup goes into Thursday’s Mountain West Tournament quarterfinal against UNLV with Boise State’s Derrick Alston was named second-team by the media.  The Player of the Year was San Diego State’s Malchi Flynn, and the Coach of the Year was the Aztecs’ Brian Dutcher.

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REBELS MISSING A PIECE

UNLV senior guard Elijah Mitrou-Long scored 16 points against Boise State last week.  He’s been like that during the Rebels’ five-game winning streak, averaging 17.6 points per game, but he left the floor with less than four minutes remaining in the 92-69 victory at San Jose State with a knee injury.  Now, Mark Anderson of the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that Mitrou-Brown has a “severe knee contusion,” and his status for Thursday’s game against the Broncos is unknown. 

A’SHANTI ELEVATES HER GAME

If you just tuned in, you’d think A’Shanti Coleman was extraordinarily comfortable on the intricately-designed Mountain West Tournament floor in Las Vegas, where her putback against Nevada won the championship for Boise State two years ago.  But Coleman has been comfortable everywhere lately.  She posted her fourth straight 20-point game Monday night as the Broncos routed Air Force 73-50 in the tournament quarterfinals.  In fact, Coleman eclipsed a career-high again, scoring 23 points while going 10-for-15 from the field.  It was Boise State’s 10th straight Mountain West Tournament win.

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The Broncos move on to tonight’s semifinals to face Wyoming, which rallied from a 16-point second-quarter deficit late Monday night to defeat Utah State 64-59.  It’s a rematch of last year’s Mountain West championship game, when the top-seeded Broncos knocked off the third-seeded Cowgirls, 66-51.  The first meeting this season between these two teams came on New Year’s Day, and that one’s been a stickler for Boise State.  Wyoming came back from 15 points down to win 73-68 in Laramie.

CURTIS IS WEAVIN’ THE DREAM

I mentioned Monday that Boise State’s Ezra Cleveland was one of the big winners at the NFL Combine over the weekend.  It’s hard to top what they’re calling an all-timer of a performance by an offsensive lineman.  But Curtis Weaver is a close second.  The Mountain West’s career sacks leader didn’t run the 40-yard dash, but his time of 7.0 seconds in the three-cone drill drew raves.  “Weaver has a unique, compact body for the edge rusher spot at just over 6-2 and 265 pounds, which means his time in the three-cone was outstanding,” writes Chris Trapasso of CBSSports.com.  Weaver met with the Houston Texans at the Combine.  What is it that he thinks NFL teams like about him?  “I have that twitch when it comes to the pass rush,” Weaver said. “The energy level is high up there.  And the bend is up there.”

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THE TROPHY’S ON THE TABLE

One game stands between No. 1 College of Idaho and its third straight Cascade Conference Tournament championship.  Oregon Tech’s standing there, too, as the two teams meet for the title tonight at the J.A. Albertson Activities Center in Caldwell.  OIT is worthy, ranked No. 8 in NAIA Division II.  The Owls, as you might expect, have been competitive with C of I this season.  The Yotes won 77-65 in Klamath Falls in December and 70-59 in Caldwell in January.  Oregon Tech was certainly competitive last year, making it to the NAIA Division II Final Four—where the Owls happened to end C of I’s season.

THIS DAY IN SPORTS…March 3, 2007:  

Capital High graduate Jake Plummer abruptly announces his retirement from the NFL rather than accept a trade from the Denver Broncos to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  The freewheeling quarterback out of Arizona State always had the ability to take fans—and coaches—from ecstasy to agony and back again.  Plummer played 10 NFL seasons, the first six with the Arizona Cardinals.  He had his best seasons in Denver, where he turned around his closely-scrutinized touchdown-to-interception ratio.  So where did that number end up for Plummer’s career?  Jake the Snake threw 161 TDs…and 161 picks.

(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.)