Mainstays start slow—frosh take charge

It was hard to imagine Boise State holding a nine-point halftime lead over San Jose State Saturday with catalysts Chandler Hutchison and Paris Austin held to seven combined points (Hutchison three, Austin four). Those two were outscored by true freshmen Alex Hobbs with nine points and Marcus Dickinson with five. The Broncos’ 85-78 win over the Spartans was a study in depth. Justinian Jessup joined the true frosh mosh in the second half, scoring 10 of his 14 points. Hobbs ended the day with career-highs of 16 points and five rebounds. That’s not to say those mainstays didn’t come through down the stretch, Austin in particular. The sophomore point guard got his slash-and-dash going and finished with a game-high 18 points, going 8-for-10 from the free throw line.

The three-pointer has become a bit undependable for Boise State. When the deep ball isn’t there, though, the Broncos seem to be learning to live without it. “They wanted to take away our threes,” coach Leon Rice said of San Jose State’s game plan. “But then you’ve got to pick your poison.” Jessup was a prime example. He tallied 14 points without making anything from beyond the arc. Instead, Jessup revived other parts of his game that served him well earlier in the season, driving the lane and relying on his short jumper. Boise State was just 4-for-18 from three-point range and 0-for-8 in the second half against San Jose State and won. The Broncos were 12-for-24 at Nevada last Wednesday and lost.

Boise State has now earned one of the five first-round byes in the Mountain West Tournament next week, along with Colorado State and Nevada, who still share first place. Fresno State has moved into fourth, and tomorrow night’s game against the Broncos in Taco Bell Arena is crucial if the Bulldogs are to take next Wednesday off in Las Vegas. Fresno State is jockeying with New Mexico and San Diego State for the final two byes.

NFL Combine participants begin gathering tomorrow in Indianapolis, with Boise State’s Jeremy McNichols and Tanner Vallejo set to go through the rigmarole of underwear measurables, interviews and drills. While Vallejo is a long shot, projected as an undrafted free agent, McNichols has to try to get noticed in what is a very strong running backs class going into the 2017 draft. For starters, there are 20 backs who declared early out of college this winter. McNichols will have to make his numbers count this week, as he’ll be undergoing shoulder surgery after the Combine and will be missing the Broncos’ Pro Day on March 30.

McNichols’ heir-apparent met reporters Friday for the first time as a Bronco. Alexander Mattison was a much-decorated high school player in San Bernardino, CA, both athletically and academically. It didn’t take long for Mattison to make his Boise State debut as a true freshman, rushing 11 times for 61 yards in last year’s season-opening win at Louisiana-Lafayette. He calls it “a surreal moment.” But it was one he was ready for. “I think I prepared well,” Mattison said. “My first carry was on third down, so I had no choice but to get in there and act like a pro.” That was as many carries as he got until going for 100 yards on 18 totes against San Jose State in November. For the season, he rushed for 328 yards and four touchdowns. Mattison is primed for more.

It was a delayed reaction, but the Idaho Steelheads struck back after seeing their four-game winning streak snapped 4-2 Friday night at Missouri. The Steelheads got what looked like an unassuming goal from Jefferson Dahl in the first period Saturday night—after all, they were already trailing 3-0. The Mavericks would lead 4-1 at the end of the first 20 minutes. But from there the Steelies scored four unanswered goals, with Dahl putting home the game-winner in the third period. Idaho goalie Branden Komm recovered from that four-goal first period to stop all 20 Mavericks shots on goal the rest of the night to earn his first win in more than a month.

Graham DeLaet was in contention after the first two rounds of the Honda Classic in Palm Beach Gardens, FL. Then DeLaet leveled off with a pair of 70’s Saturday and Sunday, his momentum blunted by four bogeys on the back nine in the third round. The former Boise State star still finished 10th, though, and took home $172,800. It was DeLaet’s third straight top 20 finish.

Back to hoops—the Boise State women are closing in on a first-round bye in the Mountain West after beating San Jose State 69-61 Saturday. Shalen Shaw makes a difference when she’s 100 percent. Shaw scored 26 points and pulled down nine rebounds as the Broncos took their fifth game in a row and secured a 20-win season. The Idaho men improved their chances at a bye in the Big Sky Tournament by taking down Weber State 83-78 in overtime at Memorial Gym. The College of Idaho men were eliminated from the Cascade Conference Tournament in a 75-69 loss to Oregon Tech, but the Coyotes are hopeful of an NAIA National Tournament at-large berth when the field is announced Wednesday at 5 p.m. And NNU had its season ended in a 73-70 loss to the Alaska-Fairbanks Nanooks.

Around the horn: Christina Washington spun the first perfect game in Boise State women’s softball history Saturday in an 8-0 victory over Maryland-Eastern Shore. Washington did it on only 41 pitches—and with no strikeouts. The Broncos went 6-0 at the Willie Jewell’s Invitational in Charleston, SC, and have now won 10 games in a row. They’re 11-2 overall. The 12th-ranked Boise State women’s gymnastics team posted another stellar road score, a 196.675, in a narrow loss at No. 4 Alabama. The Bronco men finished sixth and the women seventh at the Mountain West Indoor Track and Field Championships. And the College of Idaho men’s and women’s ski teams were fifth and second, respectively, in the slalom Saturday at the USCSA Regionals at Brundage Mountain. Both teams qualified for nationals.

This Day In Sports…February 27, 1992, 25 years ago today:

Tiger Woods becomes the youngest golfer to play in a PGA Tour event in 35 years. Woods was only 16 when he teed it up in the Nissan Los Angeles Open. Tiger didn’t make the cut at Riviera Country Club, but he would go on to win three amateur player of the year awards. Woods finally turned pro in August, 1996. Today, we wonder if it’s all over for one of golf’s all-time greats.

(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.)