Nevada had the look of a first-place team

Above the rim and beyond the arc, Nevada took it to Boise State last night in Taco Bell Arena. It was an “arm’s length” kind of night. Once the Wolf Pack took the lead for good with 8½ minutes left in the first half, the Broncos had to exert a lot of energy to stay with it. They got to within three points again midway through the second half, and the season-high crowd of 7,059 was very much into it. But the Pack went on a 16-2 run and won going away, 76-57. Chandler Hutchison was Boise State’s only player in double figures. He scored 23 points, pulled down seven rebounds and dished out five assists. But Hutchison also turned the ball over six times. Nevada had the Broncos out of sync.

Boise State had been overachieving in the Mountain West this season, but the Broncos’ deficiencies were magnified against the best team in the conference. It was known coming in that Nevada was more athletic, but man did the Wolf Pack make things difficult in the paint. Cameron Oliver blocked four shots in the first seven minutes, and Boise State turned tentative. And he simply out-reached the Broncos on numerous rebounds. Oliver, whose consistency had been questioned by Nevada coach Eric Musselman, had a monster night, scoring 17 points with 15 boards and the four blocks. The Pack’s quicker guards also stifled Boise State around the three-point line, as the Broncos were just 6-for-24 from deep.

Nevada is now all alone atop the Mountain West at 6-2, and New Mexico jumps into the second spot at 6-3. Boise State fell from a tie for first place to a three-way tie for third with Fresno State and Colorado State at 5-3. The season is at a crossroads now, with a road trip to Wyoming and CSU coming up. Incidentally, Trent Johnson, who was released as head coach by TCU at the end of last season, was in attendance last night at Taco Bell Arena. Who he was rooting for is anyone’s guess. Johnson coached at Nevada and played for Boise State. He was sitting next to Bus Connor, who coached him as a Bronco from 1973-78.

It’s not only the season of commitments, but the season of renegs. It happens everywhere. Ali’i Niumatalolo, the son of Navy coach Paul Niumatalolo who committed to Boise State last year before heading out on an LDS mission, has decommitted from the Broncos “for now,” according to a tweet. Breydon Boyd of Katy, TX, and Zeke Noa of La Mesa, CA, are the only linebackers on Boise State’s list, which now numbers 18. National Letter of Intent Day is next Wednesday. Elsewhere, Darreon Jackson has been rejected in his planned transfer to Kansas. Jackson was one of three Boise State players implicated last spring in sexual assault allegations. Jackson was suspended and later left school—Marquis Hendrix and Donzale Roddie were expelled.

If you think there are too many bowl games, you can cross one off the list. Unfortunately, it comes off the Mountain West’s list, too. With the Chargers moving to Los Angeles, the San Diego Bowl Game Association has dropped the Poinsettia Bowl. The group is going to concentrate on the Holiday Bowl and is talking to the Padres about moving the game to Petco Park after 2018, when it’s likely the city will close Qualcomm Stadium. Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson said the conference was aware of the possibility of the Poinsettia demise and is already examining future landing spots for that bowl berth. Boise State played in two of the 12 Poinsettia Bowls, losing 17-16 to TCU in 2008 and routing Northern Illinois 55-7 in 2015.

Idaho’s re-entry into Big Sky football will overlap with North Dakota’s stay in the conference by just two seasons. The Fighting Hawks (as they are now known) are expected to announce today that they will reunite with North Dakota State, South Dakota and South Dakota State in the Summit League in the fall of 2018. The Summit doesn’t offer football, so UND will move to the Missouri Valley Football Conference in 2020 in that sport. North Dakota will remain in the Big Sky as an affiliate member in football only in 2018-19.

While Tiger Woods makes his return to the PGA Tour today, Graham DeLaet and Troy Merritt will begin their quest for improvement at the Farmers Insurance Open in La Jolla, CA. Step one for the former Boise State stars would be to make the cut at Torrey Pines. Merritt missed it at the Sony Open in Hawaii, and both players exited early last week at the CareerBuilder
Challenge. Only DeLaet played the Farmers last year—he made the cut and tied for 69th.

The Idaho Steelheads played their first game of the season on the Olympic ice of Sullivan Arena last night, and well into the third period they were handling the wider surface and deeper corners nicely. Then the Alaska Aces claimed home ice and rallied from a 3-2 deficit for a 4-3 victory. Steelheads goalie Branden Komm had played well to that point, stopping two breakways and a penalty shot by the ECHL’s leading goal-scorer, Alaska’s Peter Sivak. But Sivak finally got on the board in the second period before the Aces’ two rally tallies in the third. The three-game series continues tomorrow night in Anchorage.

This has to be music to many ears. College of Idaho opens up the 2017 baseball season this afternoon at Arizona Christian. Can the end of this historic winter be far away? C of I’s home openers are scheduled next Friday and Saturday with a pair of doubleheaders against William Jessup. If those games are played, then something wonderful (and miraculous) is going to happen in the next week. Shawn Humberger begins his 17th season as head coach of the Coyotes and his 30th year with the program overall.

It was a frustrating night for the Boise State women in Reno last night. Nevada wrapped an 11-0 run around halftime and went on to beat the Broncos 69-62. Boise State shot just 32 percent from the field as its Mountain West record fell to 4-4. The Broncos’ Shalen Shaw, playing before family and friends in her hometown, left the game with an injury after six points, five rebounds and four steals.

This Day In Sports…January 26, 1997, 20 years ago today:

Brett Favre finally gets Green Bay back to glory, as the Packers win Super Bowl XXXI over the New England Patriots in the pre-Brady/Belichick era, 35-21. But it was Desmond Howard who won Most Valuable Player honors for the Pack, becoming the first special teams player ever to win the award. Howard returned a kickoff 99 yards for a crucial touchdown and amassed 244 punt and kickoff return yards overall. It was the NFC’s 13th straight Super Bowl championship.

(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.)