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Boise State basketball: Devoured by the Aztecs ‘D’

Boise State battled Sunday, but with just about every passing lane denied by San Diego State, the Broncos’ ball movement slowed to a crawl.
Credit: Steve Conner
Boise State's Robin Jorch battles with San Diego State's Yanni Wetzell for a rebound during an NCAA game, Sunday, Feb. 16, 2020, in Boise, Idaho. San Diego State won 72-55.

BOISE, Idaho — Tuesday, February 18, 2020. 

Could Boise State improve on the 18-point loss it suffered in Viejas Arena last month?  San Diego State knew how hard the Broncos would try.  “They’ll have wrinkles that they think will get them open shots,” said the Aztecs’ K.J. Feagin in the San Diego Union-Tribune Saturday.  “But like I’ve said, every opponent I play, whoever is getting guarded by me will have a tough night.”  It was tough for all the Broncos, who had maybe a handful of open looks while falling to SDSU 72-55 Sunday in ExtraMile Arena.  To be sure, the 17-point defeat was a lot better for the Broncos than the one in January.  But they still shot just 41 percent from the field to the Aztecs’ 56 percent.  Those guys are really, really good.

Considering the defensive blanket San Diego State threw over Boise State, the game may have been the best of Justinian Jessup’s career.  Take away Jessup’s 8-for-13 day from the field, and the Broncos went 13-for-38.  He was 5-for-10 from three-point range with hands in his face while scoring 22 points.  Then there was Malachi Flynn at the other end.  He found open space while putting up 22 points himself.  And when he didn’t, Flynn was content to launch a couple of 30-foot three-pointers that swished, one in each half.  Believe it or not, Boise State made one more three than SDSU did.  But it seemed every one the Aztecs hit was a momentum-killer. 

RELATED: No. 4 San Diego State beats Boise State 72-55, remains undefeated

WHAT EXTRA MILE ARENA CAN BE 

It was a great atmosphere in ExtraMile Arena Sunday, though.  The game sold out, although there were more than 1,500 no-shows (who must have had some pretty cool President’s Day weekend plans).  That resulted in an official attendance of 10,651.  The noise on some defensive possessions pushed the decibel count to levels like those of 30 years ago.  The current sound system in the arena didn’t handle it so well.  You could hardly hear 40-year public address announcer K.J. Mac.  Maybe an acoustical makeover is in order before the 2021 NCAA Tournament?  But that’s just me talkin’. 

HOW FAR CAN THE AZTECS GO? 

After seeing San Diego State in person Sunday, I think the hope now has to be that the Aztecs make at least a Final Four run in the NCAA Tournament and validate this special season, at least for the Mountain West’s sake.  The conference is going to get a lot of “I told you so” shots if they don’t.  But they can.  Every starter on the SDSU squad can shoot, and every guy is an A-plus defender.  Brian Dutcher has coached his way out of Steve Fisher’s shadow, meshing transfers Flynn, Feagin and Yanni Wetzel with the players already in his program.  “There’s no metric for measuring chemistry,” said Dutcher going into the Boise State game.  “You just have to feel that, feel that in the locker room.  We have great chemistry.  That’s our greatest strength.”  The 26-0 Aztecs remain No. 4 in both polls.

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THE NEW YEAR FOR OJUKWU, MATLOCK

Boise State football is about halfway through winter conditioning, and the Broncos went local with their “Iron Men of Week 4.”  It’s worth a look, because both players are poised for important seasons.  John Ojukwu is one of the last men standing from the 2019 Boise State offensive line.  The junior out of Boise High could very well slide over to left tackle to become the O-line anchor in place of NFL-bound Ezra Cleveland.  Sophomore defensive tackle Scott Matlock has received a lot of props from the coaching staff the past year.  The former Homedale Trojan logged only two tackles last year, but there’ll be a changing of the guard on the Broncos defensive line next season, and Matlock’s in the mix.

STEELIES BACK ON THE HOME POND

The Idaho Steelheads are back from Toledo after a split in the “Battle of the Fish.”  A fish who changed fins last month was a factor.  Nolan Gluchowski, who was traded from the Steelheads to the Walleye last month, assisted on Toledo’s first goal in a 4-2 Idaho win Saturday night—then tallied the ultimate game-winning goal in a 4-1 Walleye win on Sunday.  It was an uneven weekend for Steelies goalie Tomas Sholl.  He made 28 saves and won his 22nd game of the season Saturday but allowed the four goals in the Sunday loss.  Idaho hosts Kansas City Wednesday night in CenturyLink Arena.

NO YOTE’S BEEN TO 19 BEFORE

Time flies when you’re having fun—and College of Idaho is havin’ some fun.  Senior Night has already come and gone for the Coyotes, but not before they established the longest winning streak in school history with an 87-66 romp over Northwest College Saturday night.  In 1955, C of I legends Elgin Baylor and R.C. Owens spurred a record 18-game win streak.  This season’s Yotes are at 19.  No. 2 College of Idaho is also 18-0 in Cascade Conference play, setting a league record for victories.  Oh, and the three seniors C of I honored were all Idahoans: Nate Bruneel from Rocky Mountain, Talon Pinckney from Centennial and Jake Bruner from Prairie High in Cottonwood.

LIVING DANGEROUSLY, BUT WINNING

After flipping the script in an overtime win over San Diego State Saturday, the Boise State women turn their attention to the pressure-packed final three games of the regular season, beginning Wednesday night against San Jose State in ExtraMile Arena.  Win them all, and the Broncos will have the No. 2 seed in the Mountain West Tournament.  Boise State struggled again Saturday versus 12-15 San Diego State, but the end result was encouraging.  This time it was the Broncos who rallied from a fourth-quarter deficit, surviving 69-67 in overtime when A’Shanti Coleman converted a high-bank layin with three seconds left.  Jade Loville also came off the bench to post her first career double-double with 20 points and 11 rebounds.

THIS DAY IN SPORTS…February 18, 2015, five years ago today: 

Despite going 1-for-18 from three-point range, Boise State wins for the first time at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, rallying in the second half to beat UNLV 53-48.  The Broncos did it on the night the Rebels paid an emotional tribute to the late coach Jerry Tarkanian, who had died a week earlier.  Immediately following the game, the lights on the Las Vegas Strip were dimmed for three minutes for only the ninth time ever in honor of Tarkanian.  Boise State added the Vegas breakthrough to first-ever victories earlier in the season at The Pit in Albuquerque and the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum in Logan.

(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.)