Boise State leapfrogged into first place in the Mountain West last Wednesday night, but Broncos coach Leon Rice had no preconceived notions about controlling the conference race going into the Utah State game. “There is no driver’s seat,” said Rice before leaving for Logan Friday. “There’s only the game that’s next.” And the next one got ‘em. Boise State had been living dangerously, and the Aggies caught up with it in a 71-65 win Saturday night. The Broncos led by seven points at halftime, but the ol’ turnover issue—the biggest thing keeping this very good team from being great—reared its ugly head again. They turned the ball over 16 times, including some costly ones early in the second half when they were losing the lead.
The net result: Boise State is right back where it was a week ago, looking up at Nevada as it waits for the Wolf Pack to come to town Wednesday night. It was the Broncos’ first loss to the Aggies in four years in a series USU once dominated. What it points out is that, as good as they are, there are no Mountain West layups for the Broncos this year (San Jose State excluded). Air Force is in ninth place, and Boise State beat the Falcons by six points. San Diego State is in eighth place; the Broncos edged the Aztecs by three. New Mexico is tied with Utah State for sixth, and Boise State needed a stirring rally to win by two last Tuesday. In the eyes of the NCAA Tournament committee, the defeat in Logan Saturday night was a “bad loss.” It’s looking like the only road to the Dance now for the Broncos goes through Las Vegas.
The loss came despite a 28-point night from Chandler Hutchison. The Boise State star did it in 27 minutes, having to sit out the last 8½ minutes of the first half due to foul trouble. Hutchison scored the Broncos’ final 11 points of the game, but he did participate in the team’s turnover ills, committing four of them. Chris Sengfelder has to be particularly frustrated after following a 10-point first half with just two points on 1-for-5 shooting in the second. Another bugaboo was a lack of the Broncos’ usual defensive grit. Utah State shot 58 percent in the second half, and Boise State collected exactly one steal.
Nevada grabbed momentum back Saturday night with a resounding 83-58 win over San Diego State in Reno. The game was tied 35-35 at the half—the Wolf Pack outscored the Aztecs by 25 points after the intermission. Leading scorer Caleb Martin, thought to be out indefinitely with a foot injury, suited up after all and scored 10 points. Elsewhere in the Adventures of the Mountain West, interim coach Steve Barnes lasted all of two games before being placed on administrative leave at Colorado State. The concern was that Barnes exhibits the same kind of behavior as his suspended boss, Larry Eustachy. The Rams broke a seven-game losing streak Saturday with a 90-79 win over San Jose State.
Since it’s been more than 10 years since a Boise State Athletic Hall of Fame induction class has been selected, there’s understandably a huge backlog of deserving members. Take the sport of football, for example. From Brock Forsey on forward in the new century, there are countless stars in line. But they had to start somewhere, and on Friday we saw that Boise State went right to perhaps the moved beloved figure in Bronco history, Kellen Moore. And to one of the school’s two consensus All-Americans, Nate Potter. Also in is one of the most accomplished golfers all-time at Boise State, Graham DeLaet, along with three track and field individual national champions, Abigail Ferguson, Eleni Kafourou and Gabe Wallin, and our friend Paul J. Schneider. Should be a special night April 13.
Troy Merritt was in contention throughout the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am—until the 18th and final hole yesterday. Merritt’s third shot ended up stuck in a cypress tree, leading to a triple-bogey and a tie for eighth place, seven shots behind winner Ted Potter Jr. The slip-up left him about $80,000 short of the check he would have received if he had just parred the 18th. On the plus side, it was by far Merritt’s best performance of the 2017-18 season. He made his first cut of the new year and earned $185,000.
Sun Valley’s Hilary Knight and the US Olympic women’s hockey team made their debut yesterday at Pyeongchang and rallied for a 3-1 victory over Finland. Knight’s pass to Kendall Coyne produced the ultimate winning goal in the second period. Finnish goalie Noora Raty admits she over-defended Knight on the play—for a reason. “Knight got there out of the corner; I need to commit to her because she’s the best shot in the world,” Raty said. “So for once she actually passed, and hats off to Coyner.” Also yesterday, Rigby snowboarder Jessika Jenson came within a Phoenix Snowpark wind gust of making the podium. Jenson performed remarkably in the wicked conditions and was in third place after the first run, but she was bumped down to fifth in the end.
The second period was a difference-maker for the Idaho Steelheads as they completed a three-game sweep of first-place Colorado over the weekend in their last-ever games in Loveland. The Steelheads tallied three times in the second period en route to a 3-1 victory Saturday night. And the Steelies rallied from a 2-0 first period deficit Friday night to win 4-3 in a shootout. Brady Bassart scored two goals in about 4½ minutes in the second to get Idaho back in it. With the sweep, Idaho moves to within five points of the Eagles in the ECHL Mountain Division race.
Campus catch-up for Monday: Idaho has won four straight games and seven of its last eight after outlasting Eastern Washington 66-64 in Cowan Spectrum. The Vandals are 9-3 in the Big Sky, in sole possession of third place behind Montana and Weber State. College of Idaho clinched the Cascade Conference regular season title Saturday night with a 64-55 win at Warner Pacific, the Coyotes’ 13th victory in a row. That seals a spot for the Yotes in the NAIA Division II Championships next month. And the Boise State women kept their Mountain West regular season title hopes alive with a 68-60 win over Utah State Saturday in Taco Bell Arena. The Broncos’ Marta Hermida scored the final seven points of the game, totaling 21 as Boise State improved to 9-4 in conference.
This Day In Sports…February 12, 1968, 50 years ago today:
The legendary Jean-Claude Killy of France wins his second gold medal of the Winter Olympics in Grenoble with a victory in the giant slalom. His first came in the downhill three days earlier, and he would get a third five days later in the slalom. After his sweep of the alpine events, Killy said, “The party went on for two-and-a-half days, and the whole time I never saw the sun once.”
(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.)