Broncos’ NCAA bubble status rims out

Boise State wasn’t going to go 3-for-21 from three-point range again, right? This time the Broncos went 5-for-26, and that was a major downer in another loss to Nevada last night. The 77-72 Wolf Pack win puts Boise State’s hopes for the Mountain West regular-season championship on life support and takes the Broncos off the NCAA Tournament bubble. Boise State started out a house afire, building a nine-point lead eight minutes into the game. Then the Broncos had to withstand a Wolf Pack wallop in the form of a 15-2 run as their three-point shooting went into the freezer, much like it did in Reno last month. They did survive, catching the Pack and getting the lead five different times during the second half. But Nevada scored the final five points of the game—all from the free throw line in the final 40 seconds.

“Our big thing, and we don’t hide it, is to shut down their star.” That quote from Nevada coach Eric Musselman dates back to early January, but it was pertinent last night. Musselman said after the game his team’s goal was to hold Chandler Hutchison to 15 points or less, and the Boise State star was held to 13 on 4-for-14 shooting, the first time in 19 games he hasn’t notched at least 15 points. He missed a runner and a three-pointer with about 20 seconds left that would have either tied the game or given the Broncos the lead. Chris Murray of the Reno Gazette-Journal put it this way: “Boise State has capable players, but it’s really Chandler Hutchison & the Pips.” Hutchison needed the Pips. The Broncos had more assists, blocks and steals—and fewer turnovers—than the Pack, but they struggled to score.

It was billed as a battle between the two best players in the Mountain West. Nevada’s Caleb Martin, showing no effects of his reported foot injury (except when he went to the bench late in the first half and took his shoe off), got the best of the matchup with Hutchison this time. Martin scored 21 points, including a couple of statement dunks. Both Martin and Hutchison are among the 30 players named yesterday as candidates for the 50th Naismith Trophy. Hutchison still leads the Mountain West in scoring at 20.0 points per game. Martin is averaging 19.5.

After national signing day (both of ‘em), everybody’s familiar with the new recruits in the fold. There’s been a lot of talk about Boise State’s quarterbacks, high schooler Riley Smith and junior college transfer Jaylon Henderson. But this is the time we refamiliarize ourselves with the redshirts, and one to watch this spring is quarterback Chase Cord, the odds-on favorite to be No. 2 behind Brett Rypien. Coach Bryan Harsin profiled Cord yesterday on KTIK, ticking off his strengths: “mechanically, footwork, knowledge.” Adds Harsin, “After spending a year of being part of the game plan and watching, (he’s ready).” He can stand in the pocket and slide, and he can throw.” Harsin also calls Cord a physical player. “He’s coachable. He brings a lot to that room.”

ESPN’s Mark Schlabach is out with his “post-signing day” Way-Too-Early Top 25, and he has Boise State at No. 19, down from No. 17 right after the season ended. No big deal. One of Schlabach’s angles this time is coaching. “After enduring heavy roster turnover and coaching staff changes the past few seasons, the Broncos should benefit from continuity in 2018,” writes Schlabach. “For the first time since 2013, Boise State is bringing back its offensive, defensive and special-teams coordinators.” That is a good point. There has been serious staff shuffling virtually everywhere else in the Mountain West. The Broncos just need to get their new secondary coach hired.

It’s going to be interesting to see if Bob Davie makes it to a seventh season with New Mexico football. The university’s Board of Regents voted Tuesday to deny Davie’s appeal of a 30-day suspension resulting from an investigation into alleged misconduct in his program. It still isn’t clear when Davie will begin his suspension. Before spring football? After? A Chicago-based law firm, Hogan Marren Babbo & Rose, has conducted the investigation. Maybe the veteran head coach is at fault—but curiously, the firm has not asked to meet with Davie.

Everyone pegged it as Round 1 between the USA and Canada in women’s hockey at the Winter Olympics, because the two teams are expected to meet in the gold medal game. But last night (today, Pyeongchang time), it was pool play, and Canada edged the Americans 2-1. Both teams are headed to the semifinals, and Sun Valley’s Hilary Knight looks forward to the next meeting down the line. “The rivalry between the U.S. and Canada is one of the most beautiful rivalries in sport,” said Knight before the game. “The level of competition we bring whether it’s in someone’s barn, an outdoor rink or a world stage it doesn’t matter, it goes to show how much we respect one another in terms of sheer dominant hockey teams. It’s always a great game, the fans get involved and it’s the game we live for.”

Local pro notes: the Idaho Steelheads are trying to make the ECHL Mountain Division race interesting, but Colorado extended its lead back to seven points with a 4-2 win last night in CenturyLink Arena. The Steelheads burst out to a 2-0 lead late in the first period, but the Eagles struck back 16 seconds later and didn’t look back. And now that Troy Merritt has some momentum, can he capitalize on it? Merritt’s top 10 finish at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am last weekend guaranteed him a spot in the Genesis Open, which tees off today at Riviera Country Club outside Los Angeles. The former Boise State star had the infamous triple-bogey on the 18th Sunday at Pebble Berach that cost him about $80,000 in earnings. Maybe that’s not momentum. We’ll see.

Back to hoops—Cowan Spectrum in Moscow is bracing for an intense old traditional Big Sky homestand, as Montana State and Montana come to town. MSU is first up tonight in the 118th matchup between the Bobcats and Vandals. Montana State leads the series 62-55—the two teams split last year, with the Vandals winning by two points in Moscow and the Bobcats prevailing by three in double-overtime in Bozeman. And the Boise State women were out to avenge one of their more painful losses of the season last night in Reno. The Broncos were trailing by two points with six minutes left in the game but finished on a 10-0 run to win 63-55. Riley Lupfer nailed seven three-pointers and scored 23 points for Boise State.

This Day In Sports…February 15, 1978, 40 years ago today:

In one of boxing’s big upsets, 10-1 underdog Leon Spinks wins a 15-round decision over Muhammad Ali in Las Vegas to take the world heavyweight title. Ali was 36 at the time, but had held the title for over three years. He would get it back from Spinks seven months later in a rematch in New Orleans. Spinks, a 1976 Olympic gold medalist, was the only boxer ever to defeat Ali in a title bout.

(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.)