So far, there hasn’t been one venue in Mountain West basketball that has been overly intimidating. That doesn’t mean Boise State has played especially well on the road—witness Wednesday night’s 65-63 loss at Fresno State. But it wasn’t the crowd that caused the Broncos to let that one get away at the end. There were lots of big red comfy chairs in view sitting empty, surrounded by a quiet crowd of 5,548. Now the Broncos visit one of the most revered home courts in the Mountain West, as it’s on to Viejas Arena and San Diego State Saturday. “The Show,” the Aztecs’ renowned student section, has dwindled drastically the past couple of years and is not nearly as imposing as five years ago. Two years removed from selling out 80 consecutive games, Viejas doesn’t come close anymore.
Against many of its opponents in the Mountain West this season, Boise State has faced a talent deficit. The Broncos have won some of those games nevertheless, including the startling 88-64 victory over San Diego State in Taco Bell Arena. The Aztecs are entirely different at home and are 5-0 in Mountain West play there after last Saturday’s 68-63 takedown of second-place Utah State.
As for that talent thing, Jalen McDaniels, SDSU’s NBA-bound 6-10 forward, is averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds now in conference. Nathan Mensah from Ghana is an emerging 6-11 forward, but everybody in San Diego swears he’s bigger than that. Mensah had seven straight points during the Aztecs’ staggering 23-0 run that turned that game against the Aggies. He took a charge in the final minute that fouled out USU star Sam Merrill. And Devin Watson has been a Bronco-killer in particular. In three career games against the Broncos, Watson is averaging 18.7 points and is 17-for-21 from the free throw line. These guys are much better than they were a month ago.
CLOSE LOSSES AFFECT MW PECKING ORDER
Seven of Boise State’s 14 losses this season have come after the Broncos led the game at halftime. That’s almost as bad as that 1-6 record in games decided by one possession. And that has helped saddle Boise State with a 6-6 conference record. With that, let’s hit the reset button on Mountain West standings going into the weekend. After Nevada, Fresno State and Utah State come the teams bunched in the quest for the fourth and fifth seeds and the first-round byes that accompany them in the MW Tournament. San Diego State is 7-4, UNLV 7-5, the Broncos at 6-6, and New Mexico and Air Force at 5-7. KenPom predictions have Boise State going 2-4 the rest of the way and missing the top five.
KELLEN GETS WITTEN’S STAMP OF APPROVAL
There’s still this disconnect between some fans and the people truly in the know in Dallas when it comes to Kellen Moore serving as offensive coordinator for the Cowboys. The latest to weigh in is former Cowboys great Jason Witten, who told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that Moore has “a way about him” that will pay off in his new job. Witten said in the story that he thinks Moore will be innovative and that the offense will take a “big step” by gearing things around quarterback Dak Prescott. Witten practiced with Moore when both were on the Dallas roster and feels Kellen will “add some nice wrinkles” to the Cowboys offense. Online comments on the story were, um, typically negative.
DODERO DOES IT FOR THE STEELIES
It was good for Idaho Steelheads fans see an old standby steal the spotlight Wednesday night. Charlie Dodero scored the overtime goal that gave the Steelheads a 3-2 victory over Rapid City, with the three-game series wrapping up this weekend in CenturyLink Arena. Dodero returned to Boise in December for his third stint with the Steelies, but he’s played only seven games. The goal against the Rush was his first of the season. Dodero has played 190 career games for Idaho dating back to 2013. Meanwile, goalie Tomas Sholl needed that win on Wednesday—he turned away 25 of the 27 shots he faced in the victory after going through a recent rough patch.
JAYDE IS NOT JUST A PASSING FANCY
The Mountain West-leading Boise State women try to keep cookin’ Saturday versus San Diego State in Taco Bell Arena. After watching the Broncos in their win over Fresno State Wednesday night, I have to zero in on Jayde Christopher, whose value to the team will seldom be shown in a box score. Christopher went 0-for-3 from the field and scored two points against the Bulldogs. But the transfer from Kansas had four assists and is one amazing passer. Christopher doesn’t always get the assist, but when she doesn’t, she sets up the player who ultimately does get it. The Broncos’ offense begins with her. Christopher is second in the conference in assists with 5.6 per game. And oh by the way, Wednesday was her birthday.
YOTES, NIGHTHAWKS IN THE STRETCH RUN
The College of Idaho men, third-ranked in NAIA Division II, took sole possession of first place in the Cascade Conference last weekend when Oregon Tech lost at Corban. Now the Coyotes and Owls will decide it once and for all during the final weekend of the regular season. The scenario for the Yotes in fairly cut and dry: win tonight at Southern Oregon and they clinch no worse than a share of the CCC title. A win Saturday (regardless of tonight’s outcome) at Oregon Tech clinches the outright conference title for C of I—and an automatic bid to the NAIA Championships.
Both Northwest Nazarene teams are locked in battles for GNAC regular season titles. The NNU men beat Alaska Anchorage 87-77 Thursday night behind Obi Megwa’s 23 points on his 22nd birthday. The Nighthawks remain one game out of first place. They take on Alaska Fairbanks Saturday night in Nampa. The NNU women, seventh-ranked in NCAA Division II, captured a 92-86 victory Thursday night at Montana State Billings while coach Steve Steele remained home sick in the Treasure Valley. The Nighthawks, now 22-1 overall, took a half-game lead atop the GNAC.
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February 15, 2006: With only four minutes remaining in the final home game of the season, Greece Athena High School in upstate New York subs in scorekeeper Jason McElwain, a 17-year-old student with autism. Coach Jim Johnson had added Jason to the team and promised to put him in the game if the lead was big enough. It was, and Jason got to play. He missed his first two shots. But then Jason stunningly made his final seven attempts, six of them three-pointers, to finish with a miraculous 20 points. The crowd was beside itself, and when the final buzzer sounded, his fellow students rushed the floor and carried him off the court.
(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.)