Boise State is in a sticky situation at Fresno State tonight. The Broncos really, really need to win this game, but how much better can they expect to be on the road versus their home game against the Bulldogs, a 63-53 loss last month? That was Boise State’s second-lowest scoring performance of the season. Any chance the Broncos have at Save Mart Center depends on how much momentum they can ride after their 48-point demolition of San Jose State last Saturday. By laying 105 points on the Spartans, they basically doubled their offense compared to that sluggish first test against Fresno State. Of course, the Bulldogs are miles better than SJSU. And Boise State is dealing with the distraction of redshirt Jaycson Bereal, who’s been suspended indefinitely by coach Leon Rice.
Is Boise State’s shooting these days mirage or reality? By going almost 63 percent from the field against San Jose State State, the team’s best mark in almost two years, the Broncos moved into the top spot in field goal percentage this season in the Mountain West at just under 48 percent, the 36th-best mark in the country. The other team’s offense is concerning, though, as Fresno State has two guys who can take over a game. Deshon Taylor has done it to the Broncos before, although he didn’t catch fire in Boise last month until the second half, scoring 15 points for the night. The wild card is Braxton Huggins, the transfer from New Mexico State. Huggins was held in check in that game, managing just six points on 2-for-7 shooting.
Derrick Alston may have the flash right now, but the most remarkably consistent Boise State Bronco during the Mountain West season has been Alex Hobbs. Now, if he can just stay the course tonight at Fresno State. It was Hobbs whose three-pointer started the record rout of San Jose State Saturday. He went on to go 6-for-9 from the field and 3-for-5 from the beyond the arc for 17 points against the Spartans. Hobbs is the only guard in the conference who is a top-15 scorer (16.3 points per game—No. 11 in the MW) with a field goal percentage of over 50 percent (53 percent—No. 6 in the MW) during league play. The junior from LaPorte, TX, is also 24-for-26 from the free throw line for 92 percent.
FRESNO STATE LURKING ON THE WOMEN’S SIDE
The Boise State women have their own imposing opponent to handle tonight as they go after their 20th win of the season against Fresno State, 8-3 in the Mountain West and 15-7 overall, in Taco Bell Arena. The Bulldog to tame is Candace White, who was named on Tuesday as one of 10 finalists for the 2019 Ann Meyers Drysdale Award that goes to the top shooting guard in women’s Division I basketball. White leads the Mountain West in scoring at 18.8 points per game. The Broncos’ Riley Lupfer no doubt will relish this challenge—if she’s able to play. Lupfer’s status remains uncertain tonight after she missed last Saturday’s win at San Jose State with an injury. She tops Boise State with 12.0 points per game, but that’s down from the 16.2 per game she put up last season.
SPANNING THE GLOBE WITH FORMER BRONCOS
As Chandler Hutchison sits on the Chicago Bulls bench in street clothes and a walking boot while he deals with his foot injury, let’s check out other former Boise State players in pro basketball. There are actually 14 of them. Checking in on two Bronco stars from earlier this decade: Derrick Marks is still in the Turkish League, playing for Manika. Marks, the 2015 Mountain West Player of the Year, is averaging 17.4 points per game. His Boise State running mate, Anthony Drmic, is with the Adelaide 36ers in the Australian Basketball League and is coming off a 20-point, nine-rebound performance in an 89-87 loss to Melbourne United, the reigning ABL champion. Drmic is scoring 8.4 points per game.
There is one Bronco in the NBA G-League this season, and it’s none other than Rob Heyer, a catalyst off the bench for Boise State four years ago. Heyer plays for former Bronco Coby Karl, coach of the South Bay Lakers (the L.A. D-Fenders back in the Idaho Stampede days). Heyer is averaging 5.3 points per game. The only Boise State product to play in the NBA last season, James Webb III, is currently with Telekom Baskets Bonn in Group B of the German Champions League. Webb is scoring 8.1 points per game and pulling down 5.4 rebounds. He had a 10-game cameo with the Brooklyn Nets a year ago.
COUNT IT AS A WIN IF YOU WISH
Ole Miss has been forced to vacate 33 football wins from 2010-16 as part of its penalty for 15 Level I violations involving the use of ineligible players. One of the wins was the 35-13 victory over Boise State in the 2014 Chick-fil-A Kickoff in Atlanta, Bryan Harsin’s first game as Bronco coach. Does that make Boise State’s 2014 record 13-1 instead of 12-2? Cal State Northridge forfeited its season opener in 1997 at Boise State, changing the Broncos’ record from 4-7 to 5-6. I still think of that as a 4-7 season. But when you hear what Ole Miss athletic director Ross Bjork said to fans at a town hall Monday night, well, maybe they should alter the record book. “In a way, it’s just a piece of paper, because you saw those games,” said Bjork. Hey, Rebels, you cheated.
STEELIES HEAVILY FAVORED ON PAPER
Is playing the Rapid City Rush going to be like a Boise State-San Jose State basketball game for the Idaho Steelheads? Not really. But the Steelheads sure have dominated the Rush the past four years. The Steelies return to CenturyLink Arena tonight to begin a three-game series against Rapid City. Idaho has won four straight games against the Rush and 18 of the last 22. The Steelheads will be bolstered by the return of forward Henrik Samuelsson, who is on loan from Rockford of the AHL. He’ll be suiting up as a Steelie for the first time in a year—last season he played 49 games and scored 43 points for Idaho before his AHL callup. Samuelsson was a first-round draft pick of the Arizona Coyotes in 2012.
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February 13, 1954, 65 years ago today: On his way to establishing the college basketball records for points in a season and a career, Furman sharpshooter Frank Selvy sinks 41 field goals and 18 free throws to score 100 points in a 149-95 shellacking of Newberry, shattering the NCAA single-game record of 73. Rio Grande’s Clarence “Bevo” Francis would score 113 against Hillsdale College the same season. Those were the top two totals in history until Grinnell College’s Jack Taylor poured in an unimaginable 138 points against Faith Baptist Bible in November, 2012.
(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.)