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Boise State basketball: Stuck in a bad situation

As Utah State’s lead grew in the first half Saturday, it looked like Boise State’s worst nightmare. But it peaked at 12 points; then things got interesting.
Credit: Eli Lucero
Boise State's RJ Williams defends Utah State's Sam Merrill in an NCAA game in Logan, UT, Sat. Feb. 8, 2020. Utah State won 70-61.

BOISE, Idaho — Monday, February 10, 2020.

It was far from Boise State’s best performance, but the deck was stacked against it Saturday night in the 70-61 loss at Utah State.  The sellout crowd was celebrating the 50th year of the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum, the Aggies were determined to erase the taste of an 18-point blown lead to the Broncos three weeks earlier, and they had the musical sound of whistles wafting through the arena.  You’ve got to credit the effort.  By the time there were 4½ minutes remaining, both RJ Williams and Robin Jorch has fouled out, leaving freshman Riley Abercrombie to deal with 7-foot behemoth Neemias Queta.  At one point, Boise State’s five on the floor consisted of Abercrombie, Max Rice, RayJ Dennis, Alex Hobbs and Justinian Jessup.  Yet the Broncos were within a point with a minute to play.

With that said, Boise State had every opportunity to win this one.  The Broncos had to go again without the injured Abu Kigab, and they couldn’t control the massive number of fouls called as Utah State went 30-for-35 at the charity stripe.  But they could control their own free throws, and they made only 11 of 19.  The glass is where grit happens, and the Broncos were outrebounded 48-31.  It would be easy to point to three-point shooting, as Boise State was just 6-for-28.  But that was a push, as the Aggies were even worse at 2-for-19.  The Broncos did have to endure another off-night from their best player, though.  Derrick Alston scored just seven points. 

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BRONCOS VS. MW: IS IT OVER, OR IS IT NOT? 

The weekend began with the story in the San Diego Union-Tribune suggesting that the Mountain West board of directors “quietly” voted to rescind the decision that would end the separate of marketing of TV rights for Boise State home football games beyond 2026.  And in turn, according to writer Mark Zeigler, Boise State has agreed to drop the legal complaint it filed against the conference in Ada County District Court.  But there has been no comment from either party.  Are they still negotiating?  Or are they just not ready to announce a settlement? 

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Zeigler obviously has a source close to the San Diego State Athletic department, noting that “President Adela de la Torre is believed to have cast a dissenting vote against reversing the December decision that would have ended (Boise State’s separate deal).”  Interesting that eight years ago the Broncos and Aztecs were partners in a planned move to the old Big East.  There may be an agreement between Boise State and the MW, but it won’t end the acrimony toward the Broncos harbored by the rest of the conference’s schools.

RAUSA’S ON THE RADAR

We have no idea how successful this iteration of the XFL will be, but former Boise State kicker Tyler Rausa will forever be known as the player who scored the first points in league history.  Rausa’s 34-yard field goal got the DC Defenders on the board in an eventual 31-19 victory over the the Seattle Dragons on Saturday.  Later Rausa connected on a 54-yarder, besting his Broncos best of 51 yards at Virginia in 2015.  But it’s not a shock—he’s often posted video of long-distance boots during his workouts on the blue turf.  ESPN Stats & Info tweeted Saturday, “Last season, only 10 NFL kickers made a FG from longer than 54.”  Somebody had to take note, don’t you think?

ALLIE O CONQUERS BIG APPLE

Allie Ostrander has her first professional victory since leaving Boise State, winning the women’s 3,000-meters at one of the premier events of the indoor track and field season, the Millrose Games in New York City.  As she often does, Ostrander was layin’ in the weeds—in 10th place out of 11 runners after 1,000 meters and in seventh after 2,000.  But she sizzled down the stretch, passing leader Julie-Anne Staehli of Canada with about 15 meters to go and beating her by seven-hundredths of a second.  Another step toward Tokyo.  Allie O’s last trip to the top of the podium was last June when she won her third straight national championship in the 3,000-meter steeplechase.

SHOLL’S SHUTOUTS SURPASS SILVERTHORN

When goaltender Tomas Sholl joined the Idaho Steelheads two years ago, he unleashed a flurry of shutouts—four of them in 11 appearances at the end of the regular season.  Now Sholl is the Steelheads’ career leader in shutouts in the ECHL era, recording his 11th on Friday night in a 4-0 win over Utah.  He passed an old Boise favorite, Steve Silverthorn, who played for the Steelies from 2004-07.  The blanking was Idaho’s fourth this season and kicked off a weekend sweep, pulling them into a second-place tie with the Grizzlies in the ECHL’s Mountain Division.  Sholl also got the victory in Saturday night’s 2-1 triumph and is now 21-7-5 on the season. 

MERRITT IN THE MONEY AT PEBBLE BEACH 

There are three courses that are part of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.  Troy Merritt tamed Spyglass Hill last Thursday and was neutralized at Monterey Peninsula on Friday.  Pebble Beach got him on Saturday, sending him to a one-over 73.  But the former Boise State standout climbed back up the leaderboard in Sunday’s final round at Pebble, shooting a one-under 71 and tying for 25th.  Merritt’s take for the week was $58,667. 

FOURTH-QUARTER BLUES BITE AGAIN 

It was a microcosm of the Boise State women’s season—and definitely the low point.  The last-place team in the Mountain West came into ExtraMile Arena and rallied from an 11-point deficit in the final three minutes to deal the Broncos a devastating 58-56 loss.  Boise State had recovered from a nine-point halftime hole to storm ahead and had taken a 54-43 lead with 3:13 left before the Aggies’ unthinkable 13-0 run.  The Broncos’ Mallory McGwire appeared to force overtime on a bucket with 2.5 seconds left, but USU’s Marlene Aniambossou popped the buzzer-beater over tight defense by two Broncos.  The shocker wasted Riley Lupfer’s first 20-point game since Thanksgiving week and sends Boise State into the Mountain West ICU. 

THIS DAY IN SPORTS…February 10, 1950:  

The birthday of one of the most decorated Olympians of all-time.  Swimmer Mark Spitz won seven gold medals at the 1972 Summer Games, a record that stood for 36 years until Michael Phelps broke it in Beijing in 2008.  More impressively, Spitz broke world records in all seven events he entered in those Olympics.  During his career he won nine gold medals and one silver overall in the Summer Games.  Mark Spitz…70 years old today. 

(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.)