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Boise State basketball: A turnover-fest offset by assists

The Broncos didn’t take care of the ball, but they took care of each other Wednesday night at San Jose State. And they’re back in the win column.
Credit: Andy Kang/SJSU Athletics
Boise State's RayJ Dennis, RJ Williams and Justinian Jessup defend against San Jose State's Richard Washington in San Jose, CA, Wed. Feb. 19, 2020. Boise State won 80-62.

BOISE, Idaho — Thursday, February 20, 2020. 

You won’t see a DVD of this game in the Naismith Hall of Fame, unless it’s in the “Assists” display.  Boise State and San Jose State combined for 37 turnovers, a season-high 21 of them from the Broncos, before the visitors finished off an 80-62 victory over the Spartans Wednesday night in the silent Events Center.  Something else had to go right for Boise State to notch an 18-point victory, and it was assists.  The Broncos dished out 29, the most in the Leon Rice era, with true freshman RayJ Dennis handing out eight.  That can happen when you shoot 57 percent from the field.  Justinian Jessup reached 20 points for the seventh time in conference play, including four three-pointers.  Boise State moves to 10-6 in the Mountain West, keeping a No. 3 seed in the league tournament a realistic goal (No. 2 is a long shot). 

It was a wild night for Robin Jorch.  Exhiliration over Jorch’s performance turned to temporary despondence when the 6-11 German senior suffered a knee injury less than five minutes into the second half.  Jorch had just made his sixth field goal without a miss, reaching a season-high 12 points and giving the Broncos a 52-44 lead.  He went to the locker room for treatment.  But Jorch came back to the bench, and then—with his knee heavily taped—returned to the floor when RJ Williams picked up his fourth foul with 11½ minutes left.  Jorch didn’t score again, but his 12 points were the most he has put up in more than three years.

NO SPARTANS SWEEP ON THE WOMEN’S SIDE 

The Boise State women still haven’t been swept in a home-and-home conference series in four years, as they avenged a January loss to San Jose State with an 85-67 romp Wednesday night in ExtraMile Arena.  The Broncos put the game away with a 29-point third quarter.  A’Shanti Coleman led the way with 20 points and nine rebounds, while Riley Lupfer scored 15 of her 18 points in the second half, all on three-pointers.  And how about Jayde Christopher?  She dished out 12 assists, giving her 222 in her career, 21 short of the Mountain West record with at least three games to play.  The win keeps Boise State in second place in the MW behind Fresno State, which had been 15-0 in conference play before being shocked 88-65 last night at Air Force. 

Watch more Boise State Basketball:

See all of our Boise State basketball coverage in our YouTube playlist:

YOTES AT THE NAIA MOUNTAINTOP

Time out for College of Idaho men’s hoops.  The Coyotes made a move Wednesday, rising to No. 1 in the country in the NAIA Division II Top 25 poll.  It’s the third time in C of I history the Yotes have been top-ranked, and it’s a real feather in the cap of coach Colby Blaine, who took over almost two years ago when Scott Garson accepted an assistant coach’s spot at Santa Clara.  In his second season, Blaine is 56-9 and has the Yotes in the NAIA Division II National Championships next month. 

CALHOUN CONSIDERS ANOTHER WORLD

Trying to imagine Troy Calhoun going from the stringent atmosphere of the Air Force Academy to a totally different culture in Boulder.  But Calhoun is reportedly one of two finalists for the Colorado head coaching job (along with former Wisconsin and Arkansas coach Bret Bielema).  Calhoun, an Air Force graduate, has been coaching the Falcons since Fisher DeBerry stepped down in 2007.  He’s at a peak right now, as Air Force is coming off an 11-2 season and a No.22 final ranking in the AP Poll.  The Falcons beat the Buffaloes in overtime last September in the first meeting between the programs in 45 years.  That was the week before a 30-19 loss to Boise State on the blue turf.  Calhoun’s career record in 98-69.

STILL FULL SPEED AHEAD FOR LVE

From the mailbag at DallasCowboys.com Wednesday came a question about “rumors” that Leighton Vander Esch’s neck procedure in January was more serious than we’re led to believe.  But beat writers Lindsay Cash Draper and David Helman counter that.  "We've been told repeatedly that this ordeal was routine, and the timing was as good as it could be. Vander Esch really rested the second half of the season and will have the entire offseason to get ready for 2020.  Not to mention, youth is on his side.  I'd say it's something to note, but not worry on—yet,” replied Draper.  

"I haven't talked to anyone inside the organization who is overly worried about Leighton's availability.  Only time will tell how well he bounces back, but I'm willing to give the situation the benefit of the doubt,” added Helman.  The former Boise State star was first injured in late October but tried to come back for a couple games in mid-November before being shelved for the season.  LVE still logged 72 tackles last season.

RELATED: Vander Esch urges Idahoans to buckle up, teams up with Idaho Transportation Department

THE MOUND WILL MAKE THE DIFFERENCE

First impression of the new Boise State baseball team is that it will have the ability to hit.  Staying with Texas in the season-opening three-game series in Austin starting Friday will likely depend on pitching.  That’s the scariest part of building a new baseball program from scratch.  Last October, the Broncos played a couple of “sneak preview” exhibition games, beating Northwest Nazarene 11-9 and falling to Montana State-Billings 26-8 (not a misprint).  Coach Gary Van Tol notes, however, that four of the Broncos’ top five hurlers weren’t pitching for the team last fall.  Hard to believe it’s one day away now.

STEELIES’ EARLY SEPARATION PAYS OFF

The Idaho Steelheads settled things early with Kansas City Wednesday night, scoring two unanswered goals in the first period and two more in the second while rolling to a 5-3 win in CenturyLink Arena.  Five different Steelheads scored—a nice start to a nine-game homestand.  While the Steelies attack was humming, goaltender Tomas Sholl carried a shutout 4½ minutes into the third period before the Mavericks broke through.  KC potted a couple desperation goals in the final four minutes to make it closer, but Sholl still notched his 23rd victory of the season.

THIS DAY IN SPORTS…February 20, 1998:

At the age of 15, Tara Lipinski becomes the youngest Winter Olympics figure skating gold medalist in history when she wins the ladies singles competition at Nagano.  Lipinski had finished second to Michelle Kwan in the short program but produced a flawless long program that was more than enough to overtake Kwan for the gold.  It would be Lipinski’s only Olympics, as she would turn pro in April of that year.  Her milestone would be eclipsed at the 2014 Sochi Olympics by Russia’s 15-year-old team gold medalist, Julia Lipnitskaya.

(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.)