Deflating defense defeats the Broncos

This had the look of a game in the 50’s right out of the gate Saturday night. Wait, make that the 40’s. This had the look of a game in the 50’s right out of the gate Saturday night. Wait, make that the 40’s. The first basket came from San Diego State 4½ minutes into the game. The first Boise State point wasn’t recorded until almost six minutes were gone, and the Broncos’ initial bucket didn’t go in until more than seven minutes had passed. The enduring story of the Saturday night Mountain West showdown was Boise State’s utter utility from the field. The Aztecs’ 56-53 victory was keyed by a suffocating defense that held the Broncos to one field goal in the first 10 minutes and 31.5 percent shooting for the game.

San Diego State was committed to guarding the three-point line, and the result was an unbelievable 1-for-17 Boise State train wreck from beyond the arc. With every three-point attempt that clanged off the rim, the collective groan from the crowd of 10,421 grew. Yet there seemed to be an odd understanding in the stands that the Bronco offensive attack was being handled by a superbly prepared group of Aztecs. Then when Nick Duncan saved Boise State from ending its 14-year-old streak of 456 games with made three-pointers by nailing one with 21.1 seconds to spare, the place came unglued. It looked like the Broncos may miraculously pull one out despite all the trey frustration. But two more threes went awry, and it was not to be.

San Diego State’s defense manifested itself on some other box score lines. Boise State was limited to three assists, the first time this season the Broncos have been held to single-digits in that category. The three assists were also the fewest in a game for the Broncos in 26 years. Then there was rebounding, a strong point for Boise State this season. The Aztecs beat the Broncos on the boards, 42-30. And those other streaks are gone now—the 10 straight wins overall and 17 consecutive victories at home. SDSU still has its streak, though, with 156 wins in a row when leading a game with five minutes remaining.

Matt Youmans of the Las Vegas Review-Journal published his list of UNLV coaching candidates to replace the fired Dave Rice Sunday, some far-fetched, some not so. Youmans is trying to convince everyone the idea of Louisville’s Rick Pitino taking over the Rebels is not way out there. Youmans writes that “a source with connections to Pitino says he is interested.” The theory is that after 15 years with the Cardinals—and having won the 2013 national championship with them—Pitino is ready for a change. He’s currently making about six times what Rice was slated to make this season, but Youmans is told that if Pitino is interested, UNLV will find the money. “He could be the king of Vegas,” contends Youmans.

As for the rest of Youman’s candidates, he includes the conference’s other Rice, Leon Rice. Mind you, this is a highly speculative list. “Boise State’s coach has built one of the Mountain West’s best basketball programs at a football school,” writes Youmans. “Football is only a rumor at UNLV, and so far Rice’s candidacy is mentioned only as a rumor.” Would he be splashy enough for Vegas anyway?

Position coaches are easier to find than coordinators, but it looks like the Boise State football program is going to need two of the latter. On the heels of offensive coordinator Eli Drinkwitz’s departure to North Carolina State comes the Twitter report from Sports Illustrated’s Thayer Evans that defensive coordinator Marcel Yates is expected to accept the same post at Arizona. The rumblings have been going all weekend. The move would split two longtime colleagues, Yates and coach Bryan Harsin. Their four-year playing careers mirrored each other with the Broncos from 1996-99, and they were together on Chris Petersen’s staff from 2003-10.

Graham DeLaet staged a rather rewarding rally over the weekend at the Sony Open in Honolulu, his first PGA Tour event of the new year. After struggling to a three-over 73 Thursday, DeLaet shot the lowest round of the day Friday with an eight-under 62. The former Boise State star shot 65-66 in the final two rounds to finish in a tie for seventh, earning $187,050. It was DeLaet’s best showing since his fourth-place finish and his $307,000 payday at the Travelers Championship last June.

The Idaho Steelheads split their first-ever home series with the Tulsa Oilers. The Steelheads won 2-1 Friday, and it looked like they were going to take it to the visitors again when Saturday night’s game began. Rob Linsmayer got a hold of the puck off the opening draw and scored nine seconds into the contest, Idaho’s fastest goal to start a game since March 12, 2004, when Jan Kopecky also scored nine seconds into a matchup against the Long Beach Ice Dogs. But Tulsa took control from there, winning 4-2. The Oilers’ victory was the 500th win of Jason Christie’s ECHL coaching career, extending his all-time lead in coaching victories.

Idaho Stampede forward J.J. O’Brien gladly sacrificed his Saturday night plans to watch his former San Diego State teammates take on Boise State in Taco Bell Arena. O’Brien had been called up by the Utah Jazz, and was instead wearing an NBA jersey in Salt Lake City. He logged a rebound and a steal in 4½ minutes of playing time while watching Kobe Bryant’s final visit to Vivint Smart Home Arena in a 109-82 Utah romp over the Lakers. O’Brien, who had been in training camp with the Jazz, averaged 9.9 points and 5.1 rebounds for the Stampede this season. The Stamps, by the way, are in El Segundo to take on the L.A. D-Fenders tonight.

Weekend campus wrap: A setback for Idaho in the Big Sky race, as the Vandals suffered an 85-83 overtime loss to Southern Utah, a team that came into Cowan Spectrum at 3-11. The College of Idaho saw its 23-game Cascade Conference home winning streak snapped in an 85-79 defeat at the hands of Southern Oregon Friday night. The Coyotes bounced back with a 73-69 win over OregonTech on Saturday. The Boise State men’s tennis team swept its season-opening matches at the new Crane Creek indoor facility, beating Grand Canyon 5-2 and Montana State 7-0. And the Bronco wrestling team split its home-opening duals, edging North Dakota State 17-16 Friday before absorbing a 33-6 loss to Wyoming yesterday.

This Day In Sports…January 18, 1983:

The International Olympic Committee presents Jim Thorpe’s family with replicas of his Olympic medals, 70 years after they were taken away. Thorpe, known 100 years ago as the greatest athlete in the world, won gold medals in the decathlon and pentathlon at the 1912 Summer Games in Stockholm. Later that year Thorpe would lead his football team, the Carlisle Indian School, to the national collegiate championship. But his Olympic medals were stripped when it was reported he made $25 a week playing semipro baseball a couple years earlier. The IOC restored the medals in 1982.

(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.)