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Boise State basketball: The timing at Thomas & Mack

Every team wants to play its best basketball at the end of the season. UNLV and Boise State appear to be doing that. So which “best” will be better tonight?
Credit: Joe Buglewicz
UNLV's Bryce Hamilton drives to the rim against San Diego State during the first half of an NCAA game on Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020, at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas.

BOISE, Idaho — Wednesday, February 26, 2020. 

Boise State is not exactly catching UNLV at the right time as it ventures into the Thomas & Mack Center tonight.  In terms of knocking off a ranked opponent on the road, the upset of No. 4 San Diego State last Saturday was the Rebels’ biggest in 29 years, since they beat No. 2 Arkansas in 1991 (when UNLV was the nation's top-ranked team).  The bigger picture: the Rebels have won three games in a row and four of their last five as they gear up for next week’s Mountain West Tournament on their home floor.  UNLV also boasts Bryce Hamilton, the reigning conference Player of the Week.  Hamilton led the Rebels with 19 points at ExtraMile Arena last month when the Broncos won 73-66.  On the other hand, UNLV isn’t exactly catching Boise State at the right time.

THE QUEST FOR 20 WINS, REVISITED

Today, for the second time, I rewind to the day before Boise State’s first game against Utah State last month, if only to show how far the Broncos have come.  At that time they were 11-8 and had lost three of their previous four games.  I talked about what a tall task it was going to be to get back to a 20-win season after a year off.  With a guaranteed 12 games remaining (including the first round of the Mountain Tournament), Boise State was going to have to go 9-3 the rest of the way.  An unlikely upset of the Aggies was almost a must, but the unlikeliest of rallies the following night accomplished just that.  The Broncos have gone 8-2 so far during the stretch run, and 20 is now staring them in the face.

THANKS A LOT, AZTECS

San Diego State canned a three-pointer just 10 seconds into its game against Colorado State Tuesday night—and drained a couple more before two minutes were gone.  Game over, right?  Not so fast, my friend.  After trailing 11-2, CSU went on a 12-0 run and led for the rest of the half.  The game see-sawed in the second half—then the Rams led by seven again with less than eight minutes left.  That’s when fifth-ranked SDSU went on a 13-0 run down the stretch and escaped by the skin of their teeth, 66-60, to improve to 27-1.  Malachi Flynn went 0-fer from the field in the first half but finally caught fire and scored 17 points.  Bottom line: that Aztecs’ win clinches a first-round bye for Boise State in the Mountain West Tournament.

BACHMEIER’S TURF-STAINED JERSEY

ESPN.com’s Mark Schlabach has updated his Way-Too-Early Top 25 now that the coaching carousel appears to have ground to a halt.   He drops Boise State one spot to No. 19, with his latest synopsis: "After going unbeaten in MWC play for the first time and claiming another league title in 2019, the Broncos head into spring drills with a couple of big goals: replacing four starting offensive linemen and keeping quarterback Hank Bachmeier upright.  Bachmeier won seven of his eight starts as a freshman, but he took far too many hits.  Part of the issue was that he held onto the ball for too long, much like a lot of freshmen.  The Broncos bring back 1,000-yard rusher George Holani and budding receiver Khalil Shakir, so they'll have plenty of firepower on offense.”  Love the line on Shakir.  “Budding?”  I’ll say.

KELLEN DOES COMMAND SOME RESPECT

This one may have passed you by.  It did me.  But two weeks ago, FootballOutsiders.com revealed its 2019 NFL awards as voted on by fans.  And in the race for Coordinator of the Year, Dallas offensive coordinator Kellen Moore finished fourth behind Baltimore OC Greg Roman, San Francisco DC Robert Saleh and Pittsburgh DC Keith Butler.  Granted, Roman received 67 percent of the vote and Moore three percent, but the former Boise State great is still fourth out of 64 candidates.  If there are still naysayers inside the Cowboys fan cocoon, there seems be be fewer outside of it.

THE SECOND-PLACE SITUATION

The Allen Americans are running away with the ECHL’s Mountain Division, but there’s a battle for the No. 2 divisional seed in the Kelly Cup Playoffs six weeks from now.  The two contenders, the Idaho Steelheads and Utah Grizzlies, begin a pivotal three-game series tonight in CenturyLink Arena.  Utah holds a five-point lead over Idaho, but the Steelheads have won five straight games on home ice.  Brett Supinski has been a catalyst.  He tallied four goals last week and has scored points in seven straight contests.  Supinski leads Steelies rookies in scoring this season with 31 points.

THE YOTES POPULATE, AND THEY PREVAIL

It doesn’t matter who College of Idaho plays at the J.A. Albertson Activities Center.  The Coyotes usually win, and they usually draw.  In the past seven seasons, the Yotes are 107-12 at home, including a 15-1 home mark this season.  C of I averages 1,459 fans per game, second in the NAIA and ahead of 107 NCAA Division I programs.  They’d rank fifth in the Big Sky right now, ahead of both Idaho State (1,246) and Idaho (1,031).  Caldwell promises to be rockin’ again tonight as the nation’s No. 1 NAIA Division II team hosts Corban to open the Cascade Conference Tournament.

BASEBALL WEATHER: KNOCK ON WOOD

If Boise is an “event town,” well, there’s an event Friday night at Memorial Stadium.  Boise State plays its first home baseball game in 40 years when Northern Colorado visits for the first of a four-game set.  Everything seems to be coming together for a good turnout, as the forecast says sunny with a high of 61 Friday.  Just like a perfect October day for football.  Don’t we all want to say we were there for the Grand Re-Opening in 2020?  Speaking of October, one Bronco had a particularly good experience on the Boise Hawks’ home field last fall.  Shortstop Cole Posey hit three home runs in the team’s two sneak-preview exhibition games.

THIS DAY IN SPORTS…February 26, 1972: 

Boise State forward Steve Wallace ties the school single-game record for rebounds with 22 boards in the Broncos’ 94-63 win over Montana.  The 22 rebounds is a Boise State record to this day, shared by Bill Otey, who did it twice in 1968-69.  Wallace averaged a double-double for the season—that wouldn’t happen again at Boise State for 42 years, until Ryan Watkins did it in 2013-14.  Wallace is still second behind Otey in Bronco career rebounding, averaging 10.4 boards per game.

(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.)