The Boise State men are part of the unlucky Wednesday group that opens play today in the Mountain West Tournament. The Broncos were tagged with this spot after losing six of their last seven games and limping into Las Vegas with a 12-19 record. But they still have the wherewithal to put something together. Now it’s time for Boise State to put a positive spin on all this and avenge the one loss that saw the squad fail to show up, the 76-62 embarassment against Colorado State two weeks ago in Taco Bell Arena. That’s the night the statuesque Broncos made just five of 27 three-point attempts and went 3-for-7 from the free throw line. Even in this season of stubbed toes, their performance in that game was beyond comprehension.
The official All-Mountain West teams were announced Tuesday, and Boise State was generally absent. Justinian Jessup was named to the third team and Derrick Alston was honorable mention. Jessup has been solid during the Mountain West season—just behind Alston in scoring at 15.3 points per game. He’s also the team’s leading rebounder and assist man in conference. Jessup is shooting 44 percent from three-point range—and oh by the way, he had 25 points in the Broncos’ loss to CSU two weeks ago. Alston has compiled the largest points-per-game jump for any returning Bronco player in program history, from 0.6 points per outing as a redshirt freshman to 13.0 this season. The number is 16.0 in Mountain West play. Alston has had eight 20-point games this season.
MW MIGHT BE UP ONE ON THE PAC-12
Wouldn’t this be something? The Mountain West a two-bid conference in the NCAA Tournament on Sunday, and the Pac-12 a one-bid league? That’s the developing storyline as Nevada awaits the winner of today’s Boise State-Colorado State game—and Utah State looks for a shot at knocking off the Wolf Pack one more time. It’s looking like the only thing that could keep the Aggies out of the Big Dance is a loss to Wyoming or New Mexico Thursday in the quarterfinals. It’s quite an accomplishment for the MW in what has been considered another down year. In the Pac-12, only Washington is projected as an NCAA Tournament team. But if the Huskies lose in the conference tournament Thursday, they’ll be nervous on Selection Sunday.
BRONCO WOMEN BUST INTO THE FINAL
Marta Hermida did her best Braydey Hodgins impression Tuesday night, pouring in a career-high 30 points to lead the Boise State women to an 89-77 win over Fresno State in the Mountain West semifinals. The Broncos are now into the conference championship game for the third straight year, facing Wyoming tonight in Las Vegas. Hermida was two assists short of a triple-double, adding 10 rebounds and eight helpers one day after Hodgins set a Mountain West Tournament record with 37 points. The Bulldogs got the Boise State lead down to one point a couple times in the fourth quarter before the Broncos buckled down. They connected on 12 of 14 free throws in the final minute and a half of the game, with eight of the makes coming from Hermida.
Boise State is now a program-record 27-4, and it’ll go for win No. 28 against a team it has some history with. The Broncos went to Laramie a year ago and took a winner-take-all match against the Cowgirls for the regular season Mountain West title. Then it was Wyo who turned the tables in January, ending Boise State’s 10-game winning streak with a 64-52 victory in the Arena Auditorium.
IDAHO, IDAHO STATE MEN DEBUT DOWNTOWN
It’s an afternoon with the Bengals and Vandals as the Big Sky Men’s Tournament kicks in today in CenturyLink Arena. Idaho State, the No. 10 seed, meets Southern Utah at about noon, and No. 11 seed Idaho plays Montana State at about 2:30. The bloom has come off the rose for ISU since it upset Boise State 72-70 four months ago. The Bengals are 11-18, although they did topple the Vandals last Saturday. Idaho is 5-26, as is so well-chronicled. The Idaho women drilled Northern Arizona 90-73 in the quarterfinals Tuesday. The Vandals got huge games from Taylor Pierce and Mikayla Ferenz, wth 31 and 24 points, respectively. Pierce is just four three-pointers away from the all-time Division I women’s single-season record. Idaho now faces Portland State in the semis this evening.
YOUNG HANDS ON DECK FOR BRONCOS
While March Madness is all around, Boise State spring football works through week No. 2 before spring break. Wide receiver is one position group that would seem to be in rebuild mode with leading pass-catchers Sean Modster and A.J. Richardson gone, but that is far from the case. There’s a load of young talent at that spot. The group features only two seniors, John Hightower and Akilian Butler. The juniors, CT Thomas and Octavius Evans, flashed their potential as freshmen, and Thomas took it up a notch last season. Evans could do the same this year if he’s recovered from the injury that ruined his sophomore year. Khalil Shakir is back on the field after being sidelined the final four games of his true freshman season. And the Bronco staff is anxious to get redshirt freshmen Billy Bowens and Stefan Cobbs in the mix.
THE JETS AND PARADIS: TOO SLOW, JOE
I mentioned yesterday that The Athletic matched free agent center Matt Paradis with the New York Jets, feeling the former Boise State star was a good fit there. And the Jets were indeed interested—until the Carolina Panthers swooped in Tuesday with a three-year, $27 million contract. Paradis likes the finances, as well as the Panthers’ potential. “I think the level of play I’ve played at, the money needs to reflect that,” Paradis told the NFL Network. “Other than that, I’m trying to win. I got a taste of winning the Super Bowl in the past and my whole life I’ve been a part of winning teams and I don’t like losing. I need to be a part of a winning team.” Paradis said he’s ahead of schedule in rehabbing the broken leg he suffered in November and should be back for training camp.
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March 13, 1991: Sophomore center Tanoka Beard sets a Boise State school record by going a perfect 10-for-10 from the field in a 75-74 loss to Southern Illinois in the first round of the NIT. It was an otherwise gut-wrenching night for the Broncos. Boise State led the entire way in the Pavilion—until the final shot of the night, when the Salukis took their only lead and won the game. Beard went on to become the Broncos’ all-time leading scorer two years later, amassing 1,944 points.
(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.)