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Boise State basketball: Senior Day already?

The quiet Bronco has quietly become one of the program’s all-time greats. And now you have just one more chance to see Justinian Jessup on his home court.
Credit: Steve Conner
Boise State's Justinian Jessup prepares to shoot a three-point attempt against No. 4 San Diego State during an NCAA game, Sunday, Feb. 16, 2020, in Boise, Idaho. San Diego State won 72-55.

BOISE, Idaho — Friday, February 21, 2020.

It seems like just yesterday that Justinian Jessup started his Boise State career, draining shots from beyond the arc as a fuzzy-faced true freshman from Longmont, CO.  But Jessup has one home game left—Sunday afternoon against New Mexico.  There were some high bars set prior to Jessup’s arrival: Anthony Drmic’s Broncos record of 275 career three-pointers and Jimmer Fredette’s Mountain West mark of 296 treys.  Both standards belong to Jessup now, as he goes into Senior Day with 313 three-pointers.  The next subject to breach is Jessup’s chances of being named first-team All-Mountain West.  He’s Boise State’s top scorer in conference play at 17.9 points per game, almost three points better than Derrick Alston’s 15.0.  Jessup is fifth in the MW in league games only.

The other Boise State seniors being honored Sunday are Marcus Dickinson, Alex Hobbs, Robin Jorch and RJ Williams.  Dickinson and Hobbs came in with Jessup as true freshmen in 2016-17 and have been outstanding role players.  One of Dickinson’s most memorable games came during that first year, when he scored 12 points as the Broncos rallied past Utah 73-68 in the first round of the NIT.  Hobbs has always been a spark off the bench, earning Mountain West Sixth Man of the Year honors as a sophomore.  Jorch has had a solid senior season after redshirting a year ago.  And Williams has been a consistent force all season after a spotty junior year, recording eight double-doubles (so far).

A LONG TIME BETWEEN GAMES 1 AND 2

It’s been 2½ months since Boise State’s first game against New Mexico, thanks to the Mountain West’s earlybird week in December.  This Lobos squad is considerably different than the one that edged the Broncos 80-78 in The Pit.  JJ Caldwell and Carlton Bragg combined for 25 points and 12 rebounds that night.  But both Caldwell and Bragg were suspended just before Christmas.  Each had played in the previous 13 games for the Lobos, who were 11-2 at the time.  Bragg returned to UNM for two games in January before being booted off the team.  Caldwell is still suspended indefinitely.  It’s important to note that Jaquan Lyle is still there (although he’s had off-the-court issues himself).  Lyle poured in 31 points in the December tussle with Boise State. 

BRONCO BASEBALL COUNTDOWN REACHES ZERO 

I covered Boise State baseball some in 1980 when I was sports director at KIVI.  I don’t remember that much about it.  Tonight the Broncos play their first game since, when the program revives with the opener of a three-game series at Texas.  Boise State’s challenge will be to keep the Longhorns’ bats in check with its untested pitching staff.  Texas is already 5-0 but is batting .229 as a team with its top scoring output at seven runs.  We don’t know yet which Broncos will become familiar names.  We’ll start with lefthander Travis Weston, who has the honor of being the starting pitcher on this historic night.  And we have to throw in shortstop Cole Posey.  There are lots of Giants fans in town, and they’re going to like anyone named Posey.  And hey—he’s from Georgetown, TX, just outside of Austin.

CLEVELAND’S PRE-COMBINE NOTES

Stock could be rising for former Boise State left tackle Ezra Cleveland.  NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein is profiling prospects ahead of next week’s NFL Combine and tabs Cleveland as a guy who "plays with patience and technique.”  Writes Zierlein, “Cleveland could be a good case study in how well a player can develop strength-wise once they get to the NFL.  He’s a fantastic athlete.  It's not often Cleveland is going to get beat out of his pass set.”  However, Zierlein harps on Cleveland's anchor and balance, especially versus pass-rushers with a “mean punch.”  Zierlein grades Cleveland as a high-end backup with potential to eventually become a starter.

FANS FILE IN AT CENTURYLINK ARENA

The Idaho Steelheads have announced sellouts in seven straight home dates at CenturyLink Arena and look for that run to continue with a pair of games this weekend against Rapid City.  The Steelheads even filled the barn Wednesday night, with 5,203 fans ticketed for the 5-3 victory over Kansas City.  On the ice, the Rush have had the Steelies’ number this season.  Idaho has just two wins in eight games against the Rush, with five to go in the season series.  The Steelheads’ penalty kill remains a strength despite seeing its perfect run end at nine straight games in last Sunday’s loss at Toledo.  The Steelies have still been perfect in 12 of their last 14 games, going 40-for-43 against power plays in that stretch.

FANTASTIC FINISH AHEAD FOR THE YOTES?

College of Idaho’s expressed goal is to become the first Cascade Conference team ever to go undefeated in league play.  Coach Colby Blaine acknowledged that the other night in a KTVB interview.  The opportunity is there, with the Coyotes playing two middle-of-the-road teams away from home at Northwest Christian tonight and at Corban Saturday night.  The Yotes haven’t lost since Thanksgiving weekend, 19 games ago.  They already have their third straight 25-win season and now go after a third straight 30-victory campaign.  It’s the final weekend of action before C of I begins play in the Cascade Conference Championships next Wednesday at the J.A. Albertson Activities Center. 

THE PIT AND THE BRONCO WOMEN’S PENDULUM

Boise State’s quest for the No. 2 seed in the women’s Mountain West Tournament heads into The Pit Saturday—literally, and hopefully not figuratively.  The Broncos have been inconsistent this season, but the Lobos have been wildly so.  UNM opened the season by beating Missouri and roughed up rival New Mexico State 107-53 just before Christmas.  The Lobos also beat Providence over the holidays.  But they’re currently 14-14 overall and 5-10 in conference play.  It’ll be a higher-energy atmosphere than Boise State is accustomed to—New Mexico averages 4,853 fans per game.  Albuquerque is indeed a basketball town.

THIS DAY IN SPORTS…February 21, 1980, 40 years ago today: 

Everybody is locked in on the Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, where Eric Heiden won another gold medal with a victory in the 1500-meter speed skating.  Meanwhile, Hanni Wenzel won the women’s giant slalom to become the first athlete from Liechtenstein, a tiny country with a population of less than 30,000, to win an Olympic gold medal.  But the biggest moment of those Games was still a day away.

(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.)