Boise State’s Senior Night ceremony will be quick tonight, but it will not lack for passion. Nick Duncan will play his final game in Taco Bell Arena when the Broncos take on Fresno State. The Australian has always worn his emotions on his big T-shirt sleeve, and you can expect that to culminate tonight. Joe Cravens, who has handled analysis on numerous telecasts of Boise State basketball, long ago dubbed Duncan a “Beer League Guy” because of his portly appearance. Opposing fans have unleashed other monikers on his for the same reason. Emotion manifests itself in a different way in a team setting. Duncan’s leadership has shined this season despite his difficulties with his shot. He’s a great on-court communicator, directing traffic with his teammates offensively and defensively. I’d say Duncan deserves a resounding roar.
Different day, same spin: some threes from Duncan would be huge tonight against Fresno State. Duncan is known as a three-point specialist, so when he’s missed as many as he has this season, it has hurt. But he’s still got it—and it can still happen, as it did with the five treys he hit at Nevada last week. The Bulldogs, meanwhile, come in after a weekend off, playing for a bye like the one Boise State already has in the Mountain West Tournament next week. And they have confidence they can beat the Broncos. “They handed us our hats at their place,” said coach Leon Rice of the Dogs’ 89-80 win in January at Save Mart Center. “There’s a reason they’ve beaten Nevada twice.”
The other Senior Night honoree tonight (with playing time under his belt) is James Reid, who’s been a streaky but explosive three-point shooter during his one year at Boise State. The one-time College of Southern Idaho Golden Eagle has been especially effective during the Mountain West season, during which he leads the conference in free throw percentage at 88.7 percent and ranks fourth in three-pointers made per game at 2.4. Yes, some treys from Reid would be key tonight, too.
There’s a semi-late tipoff tonight—8 p.m. at Taco Bell Arena. But it’s not like that Tuesday night against New Mexico last month, when Boise State had a 9 p.m. start amid snow piles and temperatures that were headed for 1-below. Can the Broncos finish strong at the turnstiles? They only drew 3,752 fans for the Lobos on that frigid night, but they’ve attracted more than 7,000 in each of the last five home games. The season average is up to 5,365 per game, a significant improvement from the number in mid-January.
Chris Strausser is apparently going to be a Bronco again—this time a Denver Bronco. Strausser, who was an assistant for 12 years in two different stints at Boise State and followed Chris Petersen to Washington, is reportedly leaving the Huskies to try his hand in the NFL. Strausser is set to be the assistant offensive line coach in Denver, where he’d be reunited with one of his prize pupils in Boise, Broncos center Matt Paradis. The obvious question: does Coach Pete entertain the thought of approaching Boise State offensive line coach Scott Huff about going to Seattle? Huff coached both the tight ends and O-line for Petersen at BSU and played for him when he was offensive coordinator in Boise.
There’s now a Papa Elliss to go with Kaden and Christian at Idaho. Luther Elliss, the former Pro Bowl defensive tackle for the Detroit Lions, has joined the Vandals as defensive line coach. As far as we can tell, this is Elliss’ first coaching job. His son Kaden is a star linebacker at Idaho, and his son Christian, also a ‘backer, is part of the 2017 recruiting class. Luther Elliss was once the highest-paid defensive tackle in the NFL before losing it all and going bankrupt. He then found his calling in the ministry and was most recently the team chaplain for the Denver Broncos.
The Idaho Steelheads don’t play the Colorado Eagles again until the end of March. Maybe the Eagles will cool off by then. Over the weekend, Colorado extended its winning streak to 15 games with a three-game sweep of Utah. The Eagles’ run is tied for the third-longest streak in ECHL history with the now-defunct Victoria Salmon Kings, who won 15 consecutive games during the 2008-09 season. The Steelies haven’t faced Colorado since January 14, two games before the streak began.
Safe to say Destiny Slocum has cemented her spot as the best women’s basketball player ever to come out of Idaho. The Mountain View grad and Maryland guard was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year yesterday and landed second-team All-Big Ten honors to boot. We’re talkin’ a true freshman here. What an amazing rise for the two-time state 5A Player of the Year. For the season, Slocum is averaging 11.1 points and 6.0 assists per game. She dished out eight helpers in the Terrapins’ 93-60 rout of Minnesota Sunday. Her assist-to-turnover ratio is better than 2-to-1 in conference games.
It’s hard to gauge what lies ahead for the Boise State women’s hoops in Save Mart Center tonight. Fresno State has lost three of its last four games but beat San Diego State at home last time out. The Broncos edged the Bulldogs 67-66 last month in Boise, but they’ve lost 11 straight games in Fresno. On the gymnastics front, the Boise State women rebounded yesterday in the Road To Nationals team rankings. A score of 196.675 in the close loss to No. 4 Alabama last Friday allowed the Broncos to throw out a 195.3 in the season opener and move from No. 12 to No. 10 this week. Boise State hosts Utah State Thursday night in Taco Bell Arena.
This Day In Sports…February 28, 2015:
In what was considered the biggest regular season game in Boise State history, the Broncos end 24th-ranked San Diego State’s 29-game home winning streak with a 56-46 win at sold-out Viejas Arena. The Aztecs’ defense suffocated Boise State in the first half, but it was the Broncos’ defense that ruled the day, holding SDSU to seven points over the final 11 minutes of the game. The Broncos completed their “quadfecta” of road breakthroughs, with their first-ever victory at Viejas Arena joining the ones earlier in the season at Utah State, New Mexico and UNLV.
(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment Sunday nights at 10:30PM on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 The Ticket. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)