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Boise State basketball: Frustration near the Strip

Shooting accuracy deserted Boise State when the Broncos needed it most Wednesday night, and they remain one win short of No. 20.
Credit: Boise State Athletics
Boise State players gather around coach Leon Rice during a timeout in a game against UNLV at Las Vegas, Wed., Feb.26, 2020. UNLV won 76-66.

BOISE, Idaho — Thursday, February 27, 2020. 

This was a game Boise State needed, but it’s a helpless feeling when the ball won’t go in the hoop.  The Broncos made only seven first-half field goals, and that essentially was enough to allow UNLV to keep them at bay at the end in a 76-66 loss at the Thomas & Mack Center Wednesday night.  Boise State’s defense was okay before halftime, but then it went south, and the Broncos trailed by 27 points.  To their credit, they got the lead down to seven in the final minute, but there was too much futility to overcome.  Boise State shot less than 32 percent on the night.  The Broncos are stuck with the No. 4 or 5 seed next week at the Mountain West Tournament—and they’ll probably draw the Rebels next Thursday.  It was an ugly way to end the regular season.

THE STARS CAME OUT LATE

Boise State’s chances of winning decrease exponentially when neither Justinian Jessup nor Derrick Alston are scoring.  They combined to go 1-for-8 in the first half.  Jessup’s first points didn’t materialize until midway through the second half on three free throws.  His first basket came with just over seven minutes left in the game.  Lo and behold, he finished with four three-pointers and 19 points, with his late surge making the final score respectable.  The last of the treys gave him Boise State’s single-season record, breaking the mark held for the past 18 years by Broncos radio analyst Abe Jackson.   Alston managed 11 points and made some plays down the stretch, but he was just 3-for-10 from the field.

RJ Williams, he of the 27 points and 17 rebounds last Sunday, picked up his third foul of the game with 1:36 left in the first half, but he kept on playing, as he was the only effective player Boise State had inside.  Despite going 3-for-10 from the field and missing five free throws, Williams still posted a double-double with 10 points and 13 rebounds.  Then he picked up his fifth foul with eight minutes remaining in the game.  Williams was injured on the play and was helped off the floor.  

HONESTY ON THE SCALES

Things get serious now at the NFL Combine.  Former Boise State star John Hightower will be on the field today with the wide receivers , while outside linebacker Curtis Weaver and offensive linemen Ezra Cleveland and John Molchon are gearing up for their on-field testing the new couple of days.  Weight measurements for those last three were interesting.  College programs are notorious for generous numbers, especially with linemen.  But kudos to the Broncos, I guess.  Weaver tipped the scales at 265 pounds, his exact weight on the Boise State roster last fall.  Cleveland was 311 pounds, up one.  And Molchon was actually down nine pounds, from 318 on the roster to 309 at the Combine.

COMING IN DECEMBER

The new bowl home for the Mountain West football champion is official now, as LA Bowl was unveiled Wednesday by SoFi Stadium and Hollywood Park.  The stadium, of course, is the new home of the Rams and Chargers, and Hollywood Park is the adjacent new entertainment district.  It’s not “the” LA Bowl, just LA Bowl.  The game replaces the Las Vegas Bowl as the conference’s top postseason game.  The opponent will be the No. 5 pick out of the Pac-12 (it was No. 6 in Vegas).  The exact date in December is still to be determined, but it’s a six-year deal that goes through 2025.  Now, how many fans can LA Bowl attract to that 70,000-seat facility?

STEELIES SURVIVE IN A SHOOTOUT

The Idaho Steelheads’ Brett Supinski picked up where he left off last weekend, scoring just over three minutes into the game against Utah Wednesday night.  That gave the Steelheads the lead.  From there they lost it, got it back, lost it, got it back, and lost it again when the Grizzlies tied the game 3-3 with just 55 seconds left in the third period.  It would have been a discouraging loss, but the Steelies won it 4-3 when A.J. White and Supinski connected on their first two tries in the shootout  There was a flurry of transactions earlier in the day, with one of them bringing goalie Colton Point back from the AHL’s Texas Stars.  Point got the start and made 35 saves in the victory.

YOTES CORRAL CORBAN IN CCC QUARTERS

College of Idaho beat Corban last Saturday 69-54 in Salem.  Wednesday night the Coyotes turned right around and played the Warriors again in the quarterfinals of the Cascade Conference Tournament in Caldwell.  It was easier at home, as the Yotes cruised past Corban 85-67 in a game they led at one point by 26 points.  Ten C of I players scored at least six points, led by Ricardo Time’s 15.  The Yotes shot an uncharacteristic 41 percent from the field, but they held the Warriors to 31 percent.  The win sends the Yotes into the CCC semifinals against Eastern Oregon Saturday night in the J.A. Albertson Activities Center.

STEP TOWARD STABILITY IN MOSCOW

Zac Claus oversees his first game as Idaho’s full-time men’s basketball coach tonight when the Vandals visit Northern Colorado.  Claus had the “interim” tag lifted Tuesday by Idaho athletic director Terry Gawlik after navigating the team through difficult times following Don Verlin’s firing last July.  So Gawlik has been understanding about the Vandals’ record, which is currently 7-20 overall and 3-13 in the Big Sky.  They were a dismal 5-27 in Verlin’s final season.  Claus spent 10 years on the Nevada staff before heading to Moscow, the first four under current Cal coach Mark Fox.  "Zac Claus is a shining example of what college basketball and student-athletes need," Fox said in a release.  “Idaho has selected a true leader and a coach with the basketball experience to forge a great future ahead.”

IS THERE A ‘W’ IN THE OFFING?

The 40-year home field hiatus ends Friday night for the revived Boise State baseball program, as the Broncos host Northern Colorado at Memorial Stadium.  It’s the first of a four-game weekend series, and chances are good that Boise State will experience its first victory before the sun sets Sunday.  Here’s what you have to like about the opening series at Texas: the Broncos’ pitching staff allowed only four runs through the first seven innings in the pressurized debut last Friday and yielded 15 earned runs in three games against the No. 22 team in the country.  The Broncos also committed only three errors, with two of them coming in the 10-inning series finale on Sunday.

THIS DAY IN SPORTS…February 27, 2016: 

One of the best late-game comebacks in Boise State history, as the Broncos rally from a nine-point deficit with just over a minute left to defeat San Diego State, 66-63.  Six made free throws and two Nick Duncan three-pointers accounted for a 12-0 run to end it.  The Aztecs had won 164 consecutive games when leading with five minutes to go, and they led at the five-minute mark in this one.  It was one of the most amazing streaks in sports, and it had lasted more than six years.  The Broncos also became the first Mountain West team to win back-to-back games at Viejas Arena since BYU did it in 2010 and 2011.

(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.)