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Boise State basketball: The big push from Armus

There are so many potent pieces to this Boise State men’s basketball team, not the least of which is a 6-10 post player from Serbia by way of East Tennessee State.
Credit: Boise State Athletics
Boise State’s Malden Armus drives for a layin against Utah State’s Neemias Queta and Justin Bean, Friday, Feb. 19, 2021, in ExtraMile Arena. Boise State won 81-77.

BOISE, Idaho — Monday, February 22, 2021.

Following Boise State’s 81-77 win over Utah State Friday night, Seth Davis of CBS Sports tweeted, “Trust me you do not want to see Mladen Armus play your favorite team in the NCAA tournament.” Armus had a solid week against one of the nation’s best centers, USU’s Neemias Queta. He accepted the game plan laid out by the Boise State staff, as he (and Lukas Milner to a lesser extent) were hung out to dry trying to deal with Queta while the rest of the Broncos blanketed the Aggies’ three-point shooters. Armus flat-out made plays Friday night, attacking the hoop for two contested layins down the stretch. His numbers, 13 points and nine rebounds, paled in comparison to Queta’s 30 and 11. But Armus owned the final 2½ minutes. The growth in the 6-10 Serbian has been phenomenal.

A SWEEP WITH SUBSTANCE

It was one thing to sweep Utah State, which came in as the first-place team in the Mountain West. But how Boise State did it was memorable. The Broncos had to rally in Game 1, and they did it again Friday in even more dramatic fashion. The Aggies built a 45-36 lead a little more than two minutes into the second half, only to have Boise State erase it on a 14-0 run, with nine of the points coming from Derrick Alston Jr. and Abu Kigab. Alston was tremendous again, scoring 23 points. But all the Broncos were gamers. How about 74 percent shooting in the second half? Now it’s Boise State in first place with a 1½ game lead.

VIEJAS ON THE HORIZON

After Boise State was swept at Nevada two weeks ago, the question was: would the Broncos have to win out to preserve their chances of an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament? We don’t have an answer yet, but following back-to-back sweeps of UNLV and Utah State, the latter one particularly impressive, is there any wiggle room in the two showdowns this week at San Diego State? That’s a definite maybe, sports fans. Boise State is back up to No. 32 in the NCAA net rankings. My feeling is that a split would do it, but a sweep of a Top 25 team on the road would be golden. First things first, though: grabbing even one win over the Aztecs at Viejas Arena will be a tough assignment.

THESE ‘BACKERS REMAIN BRONCOS

Some takeaways from the Boise State super senior linebackers’ sessions with the media Friday. Brock Miller solved one of the great mysteries of the 2020 season. Where did he go? Did Miller have COVID issues? Was he not the player the Broncos thought he’d be? Did he have second thoughts after transferring from North Carolina State? None of the above. Miller said he partially tore a plantar fascia ligament during fall camp—then tore the rest of it just before halftime at Air Force in the second game of the season. He is actually listed as having played in three games, making four tackles. Miller could not be further from the transfer portal, electing to return for one more season under new coach Andy Avalos. 

He obviously shares teammate Riley Whimpey’s feelings on the hiring of Avalos. Miller didn’t know Avalos before, but Whimpey sure did. “When I found out he was coming back, I couldn’t have been more pumped,” said Whimpey. “I’m going to play as long as I can and be here as long as they’ll let me.” Unfortunately, it’s high unlikely they’ll let him beyond 2021. Whimpey, who has led Boise State in tackles each of the past two seasons, is just as high on Spencer Danielson becoming his defensive coordinator. Danielson’s a motivator. "Even though we have a great relationship, I expect him to get on me,” said Whimpey. “You need guys who can be hard on you and help you reach your potential."

‘ABOVE .500’ IS A HABIT

Boise State women’s basketball clinched an eighth straight winning season Saturday with an 81-72 win at Utah State. The way the Broncos freshmen are playing, there are many more in store. This time it was Alexis Mark, well, making her mark with 13 rebounds. And Mary Kay Naro, she of the school-record 16 assists last Thursday, dished out nine more in Game 2 against the Aggies as Boise State recorded 24 assists on 30 made baskets. Striking a note for the veterans were Jade Loville with a game-high 18 points and Mallory McGwire with 15 points and 10 rebounds.

THE STRANGE YOTES SEASON ENDS

The College of Idaho men were never able to get into a rhythm this season, from its flurry of games against NCAA Division I teams at the beginning at long stretches of inactivity at the end. The finish came Sunday in an 80-71 loss to Lewis-Clark State in Game 2 of the Cascade Conference championship series in Caldwell. The fourth-ranked Warriors thereby earn the CCC’s automatic bid to the NAIA Championships, ending the Yotes’ three-year reign as tournament champs. Northwest Nazarene’s season isn’t over yet, and it may get an extension into the NCAA Division II Tournament. The Nighthawks swept a pair from Saint Martin’s in Nampa, winning 92-86 and 71-53. They led Saturday night’s game by as many as 36 points. NNU is now 10-1.

THIS DAY IN SPORTS…February 22, 1980:

This was the biggest day of all at the eventful Lake Placid Winter Olympics, and one of the biggest in sports history—the day Al Michaels made perhaps the most famous call in history: “Do you believe in miracles? Yes!” The underdog USA Olympic hockey team defeated the seemingly-invincible Soviet Union 4-3 in the “Miracle On Ice” to set off a national celebration. A couple weeks earlier, the Russians had humiliated the Americans by seven goals in a 10-3 shellacking.

(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.) 

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