As it has some extra time off due to a Mountain West mid-week bye, Boise State knows what needs to be fixed after what happened in the 71-65 loss at San Diego State Saturday evening. The question will be: which of the things are fixable? The Broncos were outrebounded 43-25 and gave up a massive 17 offensive boards. That marked a staggering 26-rebound swing from Boise State’s 88-64 win over the Aztecs last month. And, the Broncos went just 9-for-17 from the free throw line (Boise State was outscored by eight points at the charity stripe—and lost the game by six). Theoretically, both issues are fixable, although both fit into the mental toughness cvategory.
Thing is, the Broncos have shown grit on the glass this season, especially in preventing offensive rebounds. That free throw thing is like missing five-foot putts. When one lips out, sometimes the floodgates open. Hopefully players can clear their heads during the bye. After all, Boise State went 16-for-17 from the stripe in its previous game at Fresno State. Another talking point today: the Mountain West Tournament bye is a true longshot now. The schedule does not favor Boise State, which is 6-7 in conference play and 11-15 overall now. What would missing out in the bye mean to the Broncos? It’s widely seen as a blessing in disguise. They would have a chance to get some confidence in a first-round game and be a Thursday and/or Friday spoiler. And take something positive into the offseason.
If there’s one word that fits Derrick Alston, it’s “competitor.” That’s what he needs to be as a sophomore, but Boise State will expect more of the word “leadership” a year from now. Alston gets a mulligan for moments like the one about three minutes into the second half at San Diego State. He had just scored on a layin to pull the Broncos within a point but got chippy with the officials and was whistled for a technical foul. Devin Watson made both free throws, and the Aztecs went on to score the next nine points. Next season Alston will be a year older and will be taking a talented group of youngsters under his wing. “Don’t do as I did—do as I say.” Or something like that. But it’ll happen.
NEVADA GETS THE BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT
It’s difficult for poll voters to judge Nevada during this below-par Mountain West season, but the Wolf Pack keeps routing its foes, and it’s holding steady in the rankings. The Pack leapfrogged Michigan back up to No. 6 in the AP Poll Monday and maintained that spot on the Coaches’ list. In the computers, however, Nevada is No. 11 in NET, 12 in Sagarin, 15 in BPI, and 17 in KenPom. Hence the NCAA Selection Committee’s current projection tabbing the Wolf Pack as a No. 4 seed in the Big Dance.
BRONCOS, HODGINS HITTING NEW HEIGHTS
The Boise State women have a two-game lead with five to go in the Mountain West race after their 91-67 rout of San Diego State and New Mexico’s loss at Fresno State. Like their male counterparts, the Broncos also have a mid-week bye. Their remaining Mountain West opponents can only hope the layoff cools off Braydey Hodgins, who’s now logged four consecutive 20-point games and hjas earned her second straight Mountain West Player of the Week award. The question is: will the Broncos’ extra rest be enough to get Riley Lupfer back on the court? The Preseason MW Player of the Year has missed three straight games due to an undisclosed injury suffered at UNLV.
EASING INTO THE POSTSEASON
After falling in the de facto Cascade Conference regular season championship game Saturday night at Oregon Tech, the College of Idaho men will be the No. 2 seed when the conference tournament opens Wednesday night. The Coyotes host Warner Pacific in the J.A. Albertson Activities Center. The Yotes still have a shot at returning to the NAIA Division II Championships—they just have to work a little harder to get there now. Over at Northwest Nazarene, Obi Megwa is the GNAC Player of the Week after producing 23 and 34-point games for the Nighthawks. And the seventh-ranked NNU women played a hastily-scheduled President’s Day game Monday night, beating Central Washington 65-56. The contest was originally set for last Tuesday but was postponed when the Wildcats were unable to travel.
RE-BOARDING THE JAY-TRAIN
Seems like he’s been out of commission for a long time, but there should be a flurry of backroom activity surrounding Jay Ajayi in the coming weeks. The former Boise State star becomes an unrestricted free agent March 13, and the Philadelphia Eagles are weighing their options. Eagles brass will be at the NFL Combine next week analyzing the 2019 rookie running back crop, and that will factor into their thinking. Paul Domowitch of the Philadelphia Inquirer reported recently that prior to Ajayi’s season-ending knee injury in October, it seemed unlikely that he would re-sign with the Eagles, given his high salary goals. Now that Ajayi is rehabbing a major injury, Domowitch suggests that “it’s not out of the question” that Ajayi rejoins Philly on a more cost-effective one-year deal in an attempt to rebuild value.
BRONCO GYMNASTS’ BEST MEET FINISH EVER?
For 30 years, the Boise State women’s gymnastics team has been one of the most consistent programs on campus. The Broncos, a perennial top 25 squad, have never made the NCAA Championships, though, despite coming within a whisker numerous times. This could be the year, as this looks to be Boise State’s strongest team ever, and that was magnified Friday night in Provo. The 10th-ranked Broncos, knotted with BYU going into the final rotation, put up their best beam score in history, a 49.55 that allowed them to beat the 20th-ranked Cougars by less than three-tenths of a point. Boise State’s team score of 197.175 was a season-high and bodes well for the new rankings this week.
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February 19, 1984: Brothers Phil and Steve Mahre make history by winning the gold and silver medals in the Olympic slalom at Sarajevo. Steve has the fastest first run, but Phil’s combined run is 21-hundredths of a second faster than his brother’s. That story matched Bill Johnson’s upset win in the downhill as the biggest of the 1984 Winter Games. The biggest story of those Olympics afterward became the tragic siege that destroyed Sarajevo during the Bosnian War in the early to mid-1990’s.
(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.)