Lobos open door—Broncos can’t walk through

Coaches talk a lot about the energy that has to be expended when a team digs too big a hole. Boise State worked so hard to claw its way back from the 17-point deficit it faced with 15½ minutes left in the game at New Mexico last night, the Broncos just hit the wall when they were knockin’ on the door. They got it down to four points with 8½ minutes remaining and to three in the final minute, but the Lobos walked away with a 78-73 win in The Pit. Chandler Hutchison had a career night, pouring in 31 points. But consider this: Hutchison was 13-for-26 from the field, and the rest of the Broncos were just 14-for-42. They did not get multiple contributions—Nick Duncan went scoreless, for example—and they got only seven points from their usually productive bench, all seven from a quiet Paris Austin.

Sometimes this team does show its youth and looks out of sync, and that was the case in the first half last night. All the things that got Boise State to this point deserted it early on in Albuquerque. The Broncos turned the ball over, couldn’t drive the lane, came up short on the boards and were woeful from three-point land. One stretch in the first half told the tale. Boise State went more than 6½ minutes without scoring while the Lobos were on an 11-0 run. The Broncos didn’t make it to the free throw line until 1:25 remained before the break. Hutchison was the offense in the first half, scoring 14 of the team’s 25 points.

Boise State had been playing well around the rim during its four-game winning streak, but it had no answer for New Mexico’s Obij Aget. The 7-1 center from Sudan was dunking, rebounding, defending and blocking on his way to a 10-point first half. Aget ended with 14 points, six rebounds and five blocked shots. Not to forget Elijah Brown. The Lobos star saved the day during the Broncos’ rally, putting up 17 of his 27 points in the final six minutes. One of the major issues for Boise State was three-point shooting. The Broncos were 1-for-9 in the first half and 6-for-24 for the game.

Boise State no longer tops the Mountain West standings. Guess who does. The Colorado State Rams—all seven of ‘em. CSU picked up a 78-73 win at Wyoming last night behind a dominating performance from Emmanuel Omogbo, who had 19 points and 16 rebounds, and it’s now the Rams in the lead with a 10-4 conference record. Nevada is poised to pull even with the Broncos in second place tonight at 9-4—the Wolf Pack visits Air Force in Colorado Springs. Colorado State, Boise State, Nevada (if it wins tonight) and New Mexico are all within a game of each other.

Nine years ago, Bush Hamdan was going into his senior season as a Boise State quarterback and was scheming on his idea for a community fundraiser—an offense vs. defense softball game to debut that summer. In August of 2008, his hopes of becoming the Bronco starter were dashed when a redshirt freshman named Kellen Moore was tabbed for the job. Moore was always seen as a future coaching star, but it’s Hamdan whose coaching career is on a fast track.

Numerous reports have Hamdan being hired as the new quarterbacks coach for the Atlanta Falcons, although one says he is merely interviewing. Hamdan was the wide receivers coach and passing game coordinator at Washington last season and was a quality control assistant at UW the year before under Coach Pete. At one time on his journey, Hamdan was the co-offensive coordinator under Bryan Harsin at Arkansas State.

Pitchers and catchers have reported. That’s music to many ears, especially with the winter we’ve had. When Kyle Schwarber reports to spring training, he’ll command a lot of attention. Schwarber is on a list of “30 players with something to prove” from Bradford Doolittle at ESPN.com. “For all the well-earned attention Schwarber received after returning to the Cubs for the World Series, we still haven’t seen him play the field,” notes Doolittle of the former Boise Hawk’s DH role last fall. “That will be an area of interest early in the spring, as Chicago figures out a new outfield mix. On top of that, as much as Schwarber looks like a hitting savant, his career average against lefties is .143. The Cubs are deep enough to platoon, but Schwarber is such a good hitter that it seems he should be able to figure out the southpaws.”

Chicago manager Joe Maddon is planning on giving Schwarber a look as a leadoff hitter in spring training. “Unorthodox in appearance but ideal in on-base percentage,” writes Doolittle. Schwarber also wants to play catcher again, the position he occupied during his short stint with the Hawks three years ago, and the Cubs may give him that shot on a limited basis. Schwarber played only two games last April before tearing his ACL and LCL in an outfield collision. His recovery was extraordinarily quick, and he made a triumphant return to the Cubs in the World Series.

The Boise State women are stuck in the middle of the Mountain West hoops standings and are looking for some upward mobility when they host New Mexico tonight in Taco Bell Arena. They’re also trying to avenge a 75-68 loss to the Lobos last month in The Pit. Boise State hopes the return of Shalen Shaw can spark things again for the squad. The standout junior forward missed three games with a twisted ankle before contributing eight points and five rebounds in last Saturday’s victory at Air Force.

The Mountain West Women’s Swimming & Diving Championships start today in College Station, TX, with Boise State looking for its third title in six years in the conference. The Broncos have never finished lower than second in the MW after exiting the WAC in 2011 with two consecutive championships. They already have a decisive victory over defending Mountain West champion Nevada this season.

This Day In Sports…February 15, 1916:

The New York Yankees buy Frank “Home Run” Baker from Philadelphia for $37,500, thinking they were really bolstering the power in their lineup. Before going to the Yanks, Baker earned his nickname by hitting two home runs for the Athletics in the 1911 World Series against the Giants. Doesn’t seem like that much, but that was before baseball changed. Baker had led the American League for four straight seasons by hitting 11, 10, 12 and nine homers. Baker’s real legacy, though, was as a third baseman. He was considered the best at that position in the pre-war era.

(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.)