BSU playmaking, defense outweigh hiccups

A week ago tonight, Boise State looked a bit dead in the water after a 76-57 loss to Nevada in Taco Bell Arena. A split of the tough Wyoming-Colorado State road trip would have been nice for the Broncos at that point. Well, they got the sweep, holding off CSU 79-76 last night in Fort Collins. Boise State withstood big Ram runs, one of them 23-7 to end the first half after the Broncos led by 19. Boise State did it with timely three-pointers, solid free throw shooting, and defense. The Broncos held Mountain West Player of the Week Gian Clavell, who scored 37 points at San Diego State last Saturday, to 15 points on 5-for-18 shooting. Clavell was scoreless until five minutes remained in the first half. Boise State has now won six of its last seven road games, including a league-best five in conference play.

For the second straight game, point guard Paris Austin came off the bench for Boise State, and for the second straight game, he was money. Austin sliced and diced his way to a career-high 25 points at Colorado State, going 10-for-10 from the charity stripe and hitting six free throws in the final 30 seconds. The guy who started ahead of Austin, James Reid, was no slouch. Reid scored 18 points on a career-high six three-pointers. There were some blips—the Broncos were out-rebounded by two and allowed 12 offensive boards. CSU also knocked down 12 three-pointers. But Boise State only turned the ball over eight times. And here are the Broncos, in sole possession of second place in the Mountain West with a 7-3 record.

Also last night, San Diego State picked up a 77-68 win over Wyoming at Viejas Arena. The Aztecs, the preseason pick to win the Mountain West, are still only 4-5 in conference play. Elsewhere in the MW tonight, some significant favorites versus significant underdogs—league-leading Nevada tries to retain its lock on first place over the Broncos as it goes to Utah State, Fresno State hosts Air Force, and New Mexico travels to UNLV. But on any given night…

It’s National Letter Of Intent Day, and what we call the first and second waves at wide receiver will take a pivot with today’s signings at Boise State. Cedrick Wilson is waiting for running mates at wideout. Will the depth chart draw from the existing roster, or from today’s impressive trio, Cartrell Thomas, Octavious Evans and Damon Cole? I’d say A.J. Richardson, Sean Modster and Akilian Butler have their work cut out for them. But maybe that’s what they need at this point in their college careers. All three will be juniors, but they combined for only 13 catches last year behind Wilson, Thomas Sperbeck and Chaz Anderson. Thomas is a speedster, and Evans and Cole have the size. Somebody’s going to play as a true freshman and will probably have more receptions than last year’s true frosh, Bubba Ogbebor (he had zero).

It’s been 11 years since Matt Ryan was MVP of what is now the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. He’d gladly trade that trophy for an Atlanta Super Bowl win Sunday against the Patriots. Ryan did something shocking on the blue turf in that 2005 bowl, staking Boston College to a 27-0 halftime lead on a Boise State team that had been impenetrable at home. BC held off the Broncos 27-21, ending their 31-game Bronco Stadium winning streak. Ryan threw for 256 yards and three touchdowns in the victory. He was only a sophomore, and his junior and senior years would not disappoint. Ryan led the Eagles to their first 10-win campaign since 1940 in his final season, and four months later was the No. 3 overall pick in the NFL Draft.

The Idaho Steelheads are back home to open February with a six-game homestand, starting tonight against the Utah Grizzlies at CenturyLink Arena. The Steelheads are looking to right the ship after being on the short end of a three-game sweep last week in Alaska. Push will have to come to shove on special teams in this three-game series between the Steelheads and Grizzlies. Idaho is fourth in the ECHL on the power play at 22.6 percent. Utah, on the other hand, is 29-for-30 (96.7 percent) on the penalty kill during its current four-game winning streak. The Grizzlies have won four of five games versus the Steelheads this season.

Coby Karl’s first season as a head coach has been a whirlwind. The former Boise State and Idaho Stampede standout has been named coach of the Western Conference squad in the D-League All-Star Game, which will be part of NBA All-Star 2017 festivities on Saturday, February 18, at the Superdome in New Orleans. Karl has led the L.A. D-Fenders to the D-League’s best record at 22-6. The D-Fenders have won nine of their last 10 games.

The Boise State women’s hoops team picked up a huge victory over Wyoming last Saturday without star forward Shalen Shaw. The Broncos will have to keep muddling through without Shaw for up to three weeks as she heals a twisted ankle suffered last week at Nevada. That’s a tall order tonight, as Boise State hosts Mountaim West leader Colorado State in Taco Bell Arena. Shaw was averaging 10.7 points and 7.1 rebounds per game before her injury.

The College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta unveils a special exhibit and hosts a unique roundtable event beginning today in celebration of Black History Month. The Hall is also saluting college athletes who broke the color barrier around the country. The individual cited as the trailblazer at Boise State is the late Aurelius Buckner, who played for the Broncos from 1944-46. Buckner, the father of State Sen. Cherie Buckner-Webb, was the first African-American to play at what was then Boise Junior College. He was later known as one of the best high school football and basketball referees in the state. Great guy.

This Day In Sports…February 1, 1995:

In a 129-88 triumph over Denver, Utah Jazz point guard John Stockton sets the all-time NBA record for assists. Fittingly, it came on a pass to Karl Malone—Stockton’s 11th assist of the game (he would have 16 that night). The Gonzaga product broke Magic Johnson’s standard of 9,921—at that point he had played 14 fewer career games than Johnson in eclipsing the 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.)