BOISE, Idaho — Friday, February 14, 2020.
If Boise State created a wish list for its performance against No. 4 San Diego State Sunday afternoon in ExtraMile Arena, it would go something like this: Derrick Alston and Justinian Jessup shooting 50 percent from the field; Abu Kigab shaking off the rust and scoring in double figures; RayJ Dennis scoring in high single-digits; RJ Williams staying out of foul trouble—and getting to the line himself; the Broncos as a team dishing out 15 assists and committing fewer than 10 turnovers; somebody getting hot off the bench. That’s a lot. But every single one of them, in my opinion, has to happen in order for the Broncos to knock off SDSU. This team is 25-0 and has already clinched the Mountain West regular season championship. Nobody saw this coming in November, but the Aztecs are for real—and hats off to them.
MALACHI WREAKS HAVOC
You’re going to see the presumed Mountain West Player of the Year Sunday. Malachi Flynn, the 6-1 transfer guard from Washington State, has a little Steph Curry in him and leads San Diego State in scoring at 16.4 points per game. Flynn scored 19 and went 7-for-11 from the field in the Aztecs’ 83-65 win over Boise State last month. He also averages 4.1 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game. Flynn received two more honors just Thursday, as he was named to the Naismith Trophy 2020 Midseason Team and was one of 12 players named to the Oscar Robertson Trophy midseason watch list. And there’s this. Flynn is only a junior.
GOOD OL’ BSU PAVILION-TYPE CROWD
The scene in the stands Sunday will be reminiscent of what used to happen with regularity 30 years ago in what is now ExtraMile Arena. In 1987-88, for example, Boise State averaged well over 9,000 fans per game. The crowd should top 10,000 for San Diego State. The only downer is that it’s such an aberration these days. It’s been almost two years since the Broncos had a crowd of 10,000 or more. The season average will get a bump after this game, but right now, Boise State is drawing 4,637 fans per game, seventh in the Mountain West. (Truth be told, it’s probably sixth, considering the fuzzy math Fresno State must use at the turnstiles, but that’s a story for another day.)
THE BIGGEST WIN – AWAY FROM HOME
A victory Sunday would be the biggest in Boise State history, of course. The highest-ranked team ever defeated by Boise State was No. 11 Creighton, and it happened in Omaha in November, 2012. To reminisce, sophomore Derrick Marks poured in 35 points, 28 of them after halftime, and scored 18 consecutive Broncos points during one stretch in the second half, leading to a decisive 83-70 victory. Boise State has won only one other road game over a Top 25 team. (The other was No. 24 San Diego State five years ago, a 56-46 Broncos win.)
JW III REPRESENTS USA
Former Boise State star James Webb III has been named to Team USA for two 2020 FIBA AmeriCup Qualifying games next week against Puerto Rico. Webb is currently playing for the Iowa Wolves in the NBA G-League. The 12-man USA squad features 11 current G-League players, and Webb is one of eight who have seen action in NBA regular-season games. He played two seasons for the Broncos and was first-team All-Mountain West in both before becoming the program’s first early entrant into the NBA Draft in 2016. Webb played in 10 NBA games for the Brooklyn Nets two seasons ago. He has also averaged 12.9 points and 7.9 rebounds in 101 career games in the G League.
HENDERSON’S PRO BLUEPRINT
The news this week that former Boise State quarterback Montell Cozart has re-signed with the Calgary Stampeders of the CFL has to get Jaylon Henderson’s wheels turning. Henderson, the history-making third-stringer who won four straight starts for the Broncos toward the end of last season, is seen as having a skill set that fits in Canada. And it’s all so ironic. When Henderson signed with Boise State as a junior college transfer two years ago, people wondered if he would play a Cozart-type role. Naw, we thought. Cozart had come from Kansas and the Big 12, and Henderson from an unheralded JC. But as cool as Cozart’s story was in 2017, it’ll be Henderson who’s remembered most 10 years from now.
A NEW (AND KIND OF OLD) STEELIE
Now that the Idaho Steelheads have pulled into a tie for second place in the ECHL Mountain Division, they want to stay there (catching runaway leader Allen would be a tall order). And coach Everett Sheen continues to tweak the Steelheads roster. Sheen has signed defenseman Evan Wardley, who just completed his college career at the University of Lethbridge. Wardley is 25, an unusually old collegian. In fact, he does have 12 pro games in his past, having played for the ECHL’s Wheeling Nailers way back in 2015. Wardley is set to make his Steelies debut in a pair of road games this weekend at Toledo.
AROUND THE HOOPS HORN
Just one win in two games this weekend will give College of Idaho the outright regular season Cascade Conference championship. The Coyotes host Evergreen tonight and Northwest Saturday night in the J.A. Albertson Activities Center. The Yotes’ 17-game winning streak is their longest since the Elgin Baylor-R.C. Owens days 65 years ago, and if they sweep these next two games, they’ll even break that record. Tonight is a lock, as Evergreen is 0-17 in the conference. Northwest, 11-4 in the CCC, will be more of a challenge. C of I is 16-0 in league play, the best start in Cascade Conference history. Elsewhere, the Northwest Nazarene men suffered a heartbreaking 90-89 overtime loss late Thursday night at Alaska-Anchorage.
There’s something at stake for the Boise State women when they visit San Diego State Saturday. A win will give the Broncos a bye in the first round of the Mountain West Tournament. Boise State are hopeful a couple players are trending coming out of Wednesday’s win at Air Force. Riley Lupfer matched her season highs with 23 points and six three-pointers. And Mallory McGwire was back on track, posting her seventh double-double of the season with 16 points and 11 rebounds. Jayde Christopher overshadowed both of them, of course, with her 12 assists leading to a new school single-season record. Christopher is second in the nation with 188 assists and with 7.52 assists per game.
THIS DAY IN SPORTS…February 14, 2012:
“Linsanity” buzz hits a crescendo when Jeremy Lin, once an undrafted free agent out of Harvard, hits a three-pointer with a half-second left to give the New York Knicks a dramatic 90-87 road win over the Toronto Raptors. Lin was less than a month removed from the D-League, and his incredible play since his call-up had captured the fancy of hoops fans everywhere, especially Chinese-Americans. China itself, for that matter. Lin averaged 27 points a game over his first five starts, and traffic to the Knicks’ online store increased 3,000 percent as fans clamored for merchandise sporting Lin’s No. 17.
(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.)