Nevada came back yet again last night, but this time the Wolf Pack met a team that had enough gas in the tank to withstand the surge. After overcoming 14-point and 22-point deficits to win in the first two rounds, the Pack rallied from 10 points down against Loyola Chicago but couldn’t get over the hump in a 69-68 loss. Nevada coach Eric Musselman will come into question—the Wolf Pack left fouls on the table in the final minute and was out of options to get the ball back at the end. What the Pack has done in making the Sweet 16, though, is the equivalent of a Group of 5 school getting to a New Year’s Six bowl in football. The Pack got a tremendous amount of exposure and recruiting value out of it. Had it danced its way into the Final Four, Nevada would have been comparable to a College Football Playoff team.
Neither of the Sweet 16 teams out of the Boise bracket was able to survive last night. Gonzaga had its 16-game winning streak skewered in a 75-60 loss to Florida State in Los Angeles. The Zags, with Killian Tillie out due to a hip injury, struggled from three-point range, going 5-for-20. And they had another sour night at the free throw line: 15-for-24. The Seminoles are a No. 9 seed. What is up with these lower-level seeds? Kansas State did it to Kentucky, too, holding off UK 61-58. So much for that easy path to the Final Four. Kansas State will face Loyola Chicago tomorrow in the first Elite Eight matchup of a No. 9 and No. 11 seed in NCAA Tournament history.
Two years ago, Kekoa Nawahine was a rusty freshman coming off a two-year LDS mission, lurking in the shadows behind Dylan Sumner-Gardner at strong safety and gaining steam as the 2016 season progressed. Well, Sumner-Gardner didn’t make it to his senior year, and Nawahine took advantage last season as part of the Mountain West’s best defense. The Rocky Mountain High grad saw his first game-type situation of 2018 yesterday and picked up right where he left off, making an interception in the Broncos’ initial scrimmage of spring football.
Statistically, Nawahine is Boise State’s top returning defender. He was the only player other than Leighton Vander Esch to top 100 tackles last season, making 108 stops. Nawahine also had three interceptions for 64 yards, seven pass deflections, and a fumble recovery he returned 14 yards. He and free safety DeAndre Pierce, both juniors now, are poised to be the centerpiece of the Boise State defense this year. By the way, the Broncos’ Spring Game (they’re not calling it the “Blue & Orange Game” anymore) will kick off at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 14, in Albertsons Stadium. Tickets are $10, and the Boise State Athletic Hall of Fame inductees from the night before will be part of the festivities.
The Idaho Steelheads are on the verge of a 21st consecutive playoff berth as they wrap up their final regular season homestand against Rapid City this weekend in CenturyLink Arena. A victory over the Rush tonight, coupled with a loss in regulation by the Tulsa Oilers, gets the Steelheads in. They’ll know Tulsa’s fate by the time the third period starts, but a little drama would be par for the course. The Steelies’ last five games in Boise have all gone beyond regulation, with Idaho winning four of those via two overtime goals and two shootout wins.
Golf and skiing today—at the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship in the Dominican Republic yesterday, Troy Merritt opened nicely with a three-under 69. An eagle on No. 16 and a birdie on No. 18 propelled the former Boise State star into a tie for 22nd going into today’s second round. And at the US Alpine Ski Championships in Sun Valley, Great Britain’s Jack Gower won the men’s Super-G by 23-hundredths of a second over American Brennan Rubie. Laurenne Ross of the U.S. grabbed the title on the women’s side, while Olympian Breezy Johnson of Victor finished 10th.
Boise State goes for its fourth straight Mountain Rim Gymnastics Conference title when the league championships unfold tomorrow night in Cedar City, UT. The No. 15 Broncos tuned up by defeating No. 8 Washington and No. 19 BYU last Thursday, scoring their first 197.000 of the season at Alaska Airlines Arena in Seattle (the night after the Bronco men’s basketball team lost to the Huskies in the NIT). That was the ninth-highest team score in program history.
Borah High grad Stephen Fife is back stateside, now with the Cleveland Indians organization and ready to take another shot at returning to the majors. Fife tried his hand in Japan last season and pitched well, going 5-2 with a 1.21 ERA for the Seibu Lions. He was invited to spring training by Cleveland and made four exhibition game appearances, compiling a 1-0 record and a 2.70 ERA. Fife was reassigned Monday to the Indians’ minor league camp and will start the season at Triple-A Columbus. He hasn’t played in the big leagues since 2014 with the Dodgers. Fife made 18 appearances over three seasons for L.A. and has a 4-6 career record with an ERA of 3.66.
And we finish by going back to hoops, as Drake coach Nico Medved has been hired as the replacement for the resigned-under-pressure Larry Eustachy at Colorado State. Medved was 17-17 in his one season with Drake after going 62-70 the previous four seasons at Furman. He was on Tim Miles’ CSU staff for six seasons during a happier time in Rams basketball. Also, one thing College of Southern Idaho does with regularity is score points, and that’s what the Golden Eagles are doing at the NJCAA national tournament. CSI romped over Northwest Florida State 107-93 yesterday to advance to tonight’s semifinals in Hutchinson, KS. The Eagles have topped the century mark in all three of their wins so far at nationals.
This Day In Sports…March 23, 2011:
Boise State plays its final basketball game as a member of the WAC, falling 79-71 at Oregon in the semifinals of the College Basketball Invitational. The Broncos went 22-13 in Leon Rice’s first year, earning the school’s ninth 20-win season and recording two home victories in the CBI (over Austin Peay and Evansville). Attendance, which had averaged a Taco Bell Arena record-low 3,061 per game the previous season, rose to 4,594.
(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.)