Live and die by the (other guys’) threes

The likelihood of this being important in tomorrow night’s Boise State-Nevada game is akin to what it was Saturday: what happens beyond the arc will be make-or-break. The 7,420 hearts in Taco Bell Arena sank with every made three by Wyoming in the first half—and every one missed by the Broncos. There were plenty of both. It was a curious development. The Cowboys had missed their first 14 shots from deep in their loss to Boise State in Laramie last month. Then the switch flipped at halftime. The Broncos defended the three-point line much better, and the Pokes started missing, and the home team won 91-87. So what turned the game inside out when the Wolf Pack won 76-57 in Boise in January? Three straight three-pointers by the Pack turned a nine-point lead into a 17-point margin, and that was that.

Consider Paris Austin’s stat line the last time out against Nevada. He went just 2-for-9 from the field and scored five points in 31 minutes. It was then that coach Leon Rice changed Austin’s paradigm. Boise State’s sophomore point guard’s been coming off the bench ever since—albeit quickly—and has averaged 17.3 points in those six games, capped by the career-high 27 he put up against Wyoming Saturday. To be sure, the Wolf Pack is more athletic than the Cowboys and should be able to better contain Austin. But his new mindset will count for something in Reno.

The Mountain West reset shows Boise State, Nevada and Colorado State in a three-way tie for first place. That will change in the next 24 hours. After tonight’s action, the Broncos and Wolf Pack will know whether they’ll be playing for sole possession of first tomorrow night, or just trying to join CSU on top, as the Rams play New Mexico in The Pit this evening. The Lobos, San Diego State, Fresno State and even San Jose State are currently jockeying for the fourth and fifth spots in the standings entering the final two weeks—the top five finishers in the Mountain West avoid the play-in round of the league tournament.

Bob Behler and I talked about this on Idaho SportsTalk Friday—with Boise State winter conditioning in its final stretch before spring football starts in two weeks, what new leaders are emerging in workouts? It’s more critical on defense, where guys like Sam McCaskill and Ben Weaver have graduated. Will seniors Joey Martarano and Gabe Perez be the next men up? Can a junior like Leighton Vander Esch or David Moa rise to the leadership occasion? It’s gotta be somebody, for the sake of stability and sustainability. This will be an important season.

Sometimes it seems the Idaho Steelheads play half their games against the Utah Grizzlies, but the regular season series between the two teams is now complete. The Grizzlies took seven of the first eight games in the series, but the Steelheads have won the last three, and that’s what counts right now. The Steelies finished a road sweep of Utah yesterday with a 1-0 win in West Valley City. The victory featured the Idaho’s best goaltending performance of the season, as Landon Bow recorded his first professional shutout by stopping all 43 of the Grizzlies’ shots on goal. The Steelheads were all over the board over the weekend, from an 8-2 win Friday to a 3-2 shootout victory Saturday to yesterday’s goose egg. It’s all good.

I wrote Friday that it would take a miracle for Graham DeLaet to make the cut at the tournament once known as the Los Angeles Open. Not only was I wrong, it was hardly a miracle. It was just solid golf by DeLaet, who followed a two-over 73 on Thursday with a trio of 68’s to finish in a tie for 17th in the Genesis Open The former Boise State star collected $98,000 for his efforts at Riviera Country Club. It was Troy Merritt who I thought had the shot to play the weekend, and he missed the cut.

Has the Boise State women’s basketball team found a second wind? The Broncos picked up arguably their most impressive win of the season Saturday, rallying from a 10-point deficit and stifling Wyoming 53-43 for their first-ever win in Laramie. Boise State, with a three-game winning streak, is now fifth in the Mountain West with an 8-6 record and is on the bubble for a first-round bye in the MW Tournament. Also in hoops, the NNU men fell 83-59 to Western Washington Saturday on Senior Night. The Crusaders likely need at least a split of their two final games in Alaska this week to make the GNAC Playoffs.

Here’s a College of Idaho reset. The Coyotes landed the No. 3 seed in the Cascade Conference Tournament and host Northwest University in the opening round tomorrow night in Caldwell. The Yotes got there by walloping Walla Walla 101-63 Saturday night to extend their winning streak to eight games. Melba’s Joey Nebeker poured in 33 points, including six three-pointers, on Senior Night. And Emanuel Morgan broke a C of I record with a whopping 17 assists. Elsewhere at C of I, the baseball squad was swept in pair of home-opening doubleheaders by Central Washington and defending NAIA national champion Lewis-Clark State at Wolfe Field. The Yotes weren’t lacking offense yesterday, as they fell 19-14 and 10-8 to the Warriors.

Boise State’s women’s swimming and diving team won the school’s third Mountain West championship of the 2016-17 athletic season over the weekend, and the Broncos left no doubt. After finishing as runnerup to Nevada a year ago, they won this year’s title in a runaway, topping San Diego State by 251 points and the Wolf Pack by 300.5. Boise State won five individual crowns and swept all five relay titles. The Bronco program has now captured five championships in only 11 years of existence.

This Day In Sports…February 21, 2002, 15 years ago today:

Dane Spencer finishes 16th in the giant slalom at Park City, wrapping up very respectable performances by three Boiseans at the 2002 Winter Olympics. Earlier in the Salt Lake Games, the late Jeret Peterson had placed ninth in the freestyle aerials, and snowboarder Lisa Kosglow made it to the quarterfinals in the parallel giant slalom (the PGS). It was the first Olympiad for Spencer and Peterson, while Kosglow had also competed in the 1998 Winter Games at Nagano.

(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.)