Broncos basketball: Lessons to be learned

Future opponents of Boise State will be racking up the video from the first half of Wednesday’s Fresno State game, do you think? So the Broncos will strive to make sure those brutal 20 minutes aren’t repeated when they host the Bulldogs in Game 2 tonight. Boise State won the opening tip Wednesday night. Then a couple of unnamed Broncos walked into the frontcourt as the team went into its first offensive set. “Bad body language,” I thought. It was almost a miracle that Boise State was down by only two points at halftime. Adjustments were made during the intermission, and the Broncos really began applying themselves midway through the second half. That’s when talent won. Big-time. Tonight, if Boise State plays hard from the get-go, the first half should be markedly different.


If Boise State can beat Fresno State tonight, Leon Rice will not tie Bobby Dye as the winningest coach in Broncos history with his 212th career victory. That’s because Dye actually had 213 wins. At any rate, there are two stark differences between Dye’s best team in 1987-88 and Rice’s current edition. One is style, as Dye employed a grind-it-out system that was immensely successful. Rice’s unit is wide open and athletically-gifted, yet defense-oriented. Here’s the other difference. Dye’s teams played in front of the largest crowds in Boise State history—throngs of 10,000 or more were not unusual. Rice’s Broncos this season are playing before zero fans. It could not be more different. Hopefully there’s still a chance to see them if COVID restrictions are amended, but after tonight, there are only four home games remaining.


A couple of cool shout-outs for Jeron Johnson upon his hiring by Boise State. One was from former Seahawks teammate Richard Sherman: “Let’s go!!! Congrats brother!!! Elevate!” You’d expect those exclamation points from Sherman. And this from former Boise State teammate George Iloka: “Phenomenal hire. He’s ready. I hope those young DB are ready to soak up his immense knowledge and experience!” That Broncos secondary was stout in Johnson’s junior and senior years. Five starters from those two years—Johnson, Iloka, Kyle Wilson, Brandyn Thompson and Jamar Taylor—went on to play in the NFL.


Thirteen days after Andy Avalos was hired as Boise State’s new head coach, he has only two assistant coaches left to hire. Kent Riddle will be back for an eighth consecutive season and 13th year overall with the Broncos, as Avalos has retained him as tight ends coach. At the age of 50, Riddle is older than any of his colleagues—by a long shot. Hey, there’s got to be one graybeard on the staff. He has coached some really good Broncos tight ends, including Jake Roh and John Bates. But Riddle’s biggest accomplishment may be the conversion of quarterback Riley Smith into a feature contributor at the tight end spot. Also, Kharyee Marshall returns to the Boise State program as a defensive analyst. Marshall, a former Broncos defensive lineman, was at Oregon last year. He started his coaching career at College of Idaho in 2014.


Davis Koetter was born in Boise while his father, Dirk, was coaching Boise State and building the ground floor of the Broncos’ current run of 20-plus years. Now Davis is coming full-circle, as B.J. Rains of the Idaho Press reports that he has transferred from Portland State to Boise State. Koetter, who originally planned to transfer to Missouri, spent the last two seasons with the Vikings, so by my count he’ll be a junior in 2021. He had 38 catches for 626 yards and eight touchdowns in 2019, and he did play on the blue turf against Boise State that season, making one catch for 20 yards in PSU’s 45-10 loss.


Kellen Moore will not be the new head coach in Philadephia, as the Eagles named Indianapolis offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni to replace Doug Pederson. Kellen was one of 10 candidates interviewed for the job, according to ESPN’s Tim McManus. This is not the worst thing in the world for Moore. Instead of trying to fix Carson Wentz, he’ll be able to help Dak Prescott continue to evolve. Kellen’s first year as offensive coordinator in Dallas was hamstrung by soon-to-be-fired coach Jason Garrett. His second season, recently-ended, was waylayed by Prescott’s season-ending injury (among others). Now, in Year 3, Moore can try to make it work with a hopefully-healthy Prescott and a second-year coach in Mike McCarthy.


Boise State women’s coach Gordy Presnell did not collect his 700th career victory Thursday night. Not even close. Fresno State won in a romp 92-57. The Bulldogs, in fact, handed the Broncos their worst loss in almost eight years—since an 86-45 rout at the hands of San Diego State in the 2013 Mountain West Tournament. Mallory McGwire and Jade Loville scored a combined three points. That’s all you need to know. Fresno State must still be torqued about its overtime loss to the Broncos in the Mountain West Tournament championship game last March. Boise State will look for some kind of redemption Saturday afternoon in Save Mart Center.


It if weren’t for the pandemic, this would be an old-fashioned rollicking weekend of college hoops in the Treasure Valley. Both Canyon County teams are in the mix, as Northwest Nazarene finally played its home opener Thursday night. Yes, on January 21. NNU won 68-59. With the GNAC season wiped out by opt-outs, the Nighthawks have had to do whatever they can to get 16 games in. They’ll face Western New Mexico again tonight and Saturday. The Cascade Conference slate was also canceled this season, so College of Idaho is facing Simpson University tonight and Saturday—also at home. NNU and C of I, by the way, are scheduled to meet Tuesday night in Caldwell.

This Day In Sports…brought to you by VETERANS PLUMBING…eliminate your drips and drops!

January 22, 2006, 15 years ago today: Kobe Bryant scores 81 points, second only in NBA history to Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game in 1962, leading the L.A. Lakers to a 122-104 win over Toronto at Staples Center. The Lakers trailed the Raptors by 18 points early in the third quarter—and Bryant scored 51 points after that in an incredible one-man rally. He was 28-of-46 from the floor, including 7-of-13 from 3-point range, and 18-of-20 from the foul line. Next Tuesday marks the one-year anniversary of Bryant’s death.

(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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