Big Aussie’s first-half onslaught is enough

If past history was any indication, we knew Nick Duncan’s three-point stroke still had a chance to awaken from its slumber. If past history was any indication, we knew Nick Duncan’s three-point stroke still had a chance to awaken from its slumber. And man, the Sleeping Beauty awoke last night. Duncan connected on six three-pointers in the first half—he missed all five of his treys after that, but the damage had been done, and Boise State rolled past San Jose State 94-69 in Taco Bell Arena. Duncan had 20 points at the break, and despite adding only four three throws in the second half, his confidence is back from long-range. Is this a turning point for the 6-8, 260-pounder from Sydney, Australia? It developed about this time last year. After slumping from beyond the arc early last season, Duncan shot 46.5 percent from deep over the Broncos’ final 13 games.

This game was the tonic for Boise State after it ran in quicksand in the loss to San Diego State last Saturday. The Broncos burst out to an 11-0 lead and were up 45-32 at the half. A three-pointer by Mikey Thompson with 10½ minutes left put BSU over the tell-tale 70-point mark. The Broncos are 92-17 when scoring 70 in the Leon Rice era. It was a 12-point game with just over nine minutes left, but Boise State outscored San Jose State 21-8 the rest of the way. The Broncos went from 53 points versus the Aztecs to 94 against the Spartans, their most ever in a Mountain West game.

As has happened before this season, James Webb III was a bit off the mark from beyond the arc—and on fire in the other facets of his game. Boise State’s junior dynamo scored 24 points and pulled down a career-high 18 rebounds, his seventh double-double of the season and the 15th of his two-year career. He was just two boards short of BSU’s first 20-20 game in 11 years—since Jason Ellis scored 22 points with 21 rebounds against Tulsa in 2005. Webb has now played 51 games as a Bronco and has led the team in rebounding 39 times. Oh, he was just 1-for-5 on three-pointers in last night’s game. Webb and his compadres face a tough environment in the next one—Saturday afternoon at Wyoming.

Elsewhere in the Mountain West last night, Nevada rallied past Wyoming 75-69, and Colorado State fended off Air Force 83-69. San Diego State retains its grip on first place in the conference after surviving a 73-67 overtime win against Fresno State Tuesday night. The Aztecs are 6-0, while the Broncos keep pace at 5-1. And did I mention to look out for UNLV? The rejuvenated Rebels went into Logan and dominated Utah State 80-68 to even their MW record at 3-3.

There’s one Boise State Bronco and two Idaho Vandals still with a shot at the Super Bowl. A couple guys play for Denver, who was victorious over Pittsburgh 23-16 last Sunday and now gears up for the AFC Championship Game against New England. There are no individual numbers, of course, for former Boise State standout and Denver starting center Matt Paradis, but Peyton Manning was sacked just once for seven yards by the Steelers. Paradis was the only player on the Broncos’ offense to play every snap this season. Former Idaho star Shiloh Keo wasn’t activated for the Steelers game after playing a key role in Denver’s regular season finale.

Vandal great Mike Iupati suits up for Arizona in the NFC Championship Game at Carolina, a very positive thing about two months after the scary head and neck injury he suffered in November. The outcome was amazing after Iupati was carted off Seattle’s CenturyLink Field in an ambulance during the Cardinals’ 39-32 win over the Seahawks. Iupati suffered a concussion and experienced numbness down both arms after colliding with Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor in the second quarter. He was released from the hospital in time to fly home with the team. Iupati started for the Cards the next Sunday—and every week since.

There’s also one Idaho State Bengal still alive for Super Bowl 50, if he heals. Carolina defensive end Jared Allen, the NFL’s active career sacks leader with 136, fractured a foot in the fourth quarter of the Panthers’ divisional win over the Seahawks last Sunday. Allen played the final two series of the game anyway, and initially he said he wanted to play in the NFC Championship Game this Sunday versus Arizona. He’ll be listed as doubtful, however. “If there is a glimmer of hope that he can play, I promise you he’ll probably try to play,” a smiling coach Ron Rivera said. “If he can’t, he’s going to be around, and he’ll be an annoyance.” Allen, the 2003 Buck Buchanan Award winner at ISU who’s now in the twilight of his career at age 33, has never made it to the Super Bowl.

I had my doubts about Graham DeLaet’s massive beard going into the Sony Open last week in Hawaii. Would the former Boise State star be able to see the tee? With a five-month growth, he almost looked like former San Francisco Giants closer Brian Wilson at his “Fear The Beard” peak five years ago. Then came DeLaet’s first-round 73. But from there, he must have drawn power from the beard—like $187,050 worth after tying for seventh at Waialae Country Club. Today DeLaet brings the beard back to the mainland for the CareerBuilder Challenge in LaQuinta, CA. Fellow locals Troy Merritt and Tyler Aldridge are also in the field.

The Idaho Steelheads have been muddling through in recent weeks with just one goaltender, albeit a pretty good one, as Jack Campbell has delivered. The Steelheads need a tandem, though, and they’ve acquired goalie Branden Komm from the South Carolina Stingrays. In exchange the Texas Stars, Idaho’s AHL affiliate, have reassigned forward Brandon Magee from the Steelies to South Carolina. Komm is 6-2-0 with one shutout in eight appearances this season, sporting a 1.89 goals-against average and a .923 save percentage. He was named ECHL Goaltender of the Week for the week of December 21-27. Magee had played well this season for the Steelheads, with six goals and 15 points in 31 games.

Among the former Boise Hawks changing addresses in 2016 is pitcher Al Alburquerque. After five seasons in Detroit, Alburquerque has been signed to a one-year, $1.1-million non-guaranteed deal with the L.A. Angels. The 29-year-old middle reliever wasn’t offered a 2016 contract by the Tigers. Alburquerque made 241 career appearances for Detroit, going 17-6 with a 3.20 ERA. Consistency was an issue last year, when his ERA slipped to 4.21. Alburquerque pitched for the Hawks in 2007, when he was 3-2 with a 3.83 ERA.

The Idaho Stampede’s bench busted out at Santa Cruz last night, scoring 56 points in a 108-97 win over the Warriors. Treveon Graham led the reserves (and all scorers) with 24 points and added nine rebounds. Brandon Fields and Pierre Jackson put up 16 points apiece. It was a nice step forward for Jackson, who also handed out nine assists. Among the starters, Jeff Ayres logged another double-double with 13 points and 13 boards. The Stamps shot 51 percent from the field.

This Day In Sports…January 21, 1979:

In Super Bowl XIII, still one of the most exciting, the Pittsburgh Steelers win their third championship with a 35-31 defeat of the Dallas Cowboys. The turning point came in the third quarter when veteran Dallas tight end Jackie Smith dropped a sure touchdown pass while all alone in the endzone. The Steelers would win the Super Bowl again the following year to give Terry Bradshaw and the Steel Curtain four titles, then a record.

(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.)