In Boise State-Colorado State tonight, we have a study in contrasts. These are two programs in entirely different places. Not that it decides who wins or loses in Fort Collins, but it’s important. Not that it decides who wins or loses in Fort Collins, but it’s important. Take this observation from Chris Sengfelder, who is spending his final season with the Broncos after three years at Fordham. “I think what makes us special here is that we are so close off the court as well, like, we play for each other,” said Sengfelder after the win over Air Force. “I think a lot of teams say that but I can say for this team that we actually mean it when we say it.” Boise State will be facing a team that’s not as glued together right now. Coach Larry Eustachy has been suspended for 2½ weeks, and his top assistant Steve Barnes, was placed on administrative leave after just one game as interim coach.
CSU officials have met numerous times the past week with Eustachy and his representatives to iron out an exit plan for the veteran coach. Barnes has been alongside Eustachy for most of the past 25 years, dating back to their days at Idaho. A former CSU athletic department staff member who spoke on the condition of anonymity told the Coloradoan, “Sometimes, he was even worse than Larry, because Larry was never in the office to begin with, and Steve was.” Barnes was suspended a day after being put in charge of Iowa State’s program in 2003, when the Cyclones were in the process of firing Eustachy. This is the second time in four years Eustachy’s alleged abusive behavior in running the CSU program has been investigated. The Rams have lost eight of their past nine games during the tumult of the past five weeks.
The three-point line is what buried Air Force for Boise State last Saturday. It’s the paint that could make a difference for the Broncos tonight. Zach Haney, who played about a minute and a half with a shoe missing against the Falcons, will try to put his foot down on the block. Beyond that, penetration will be a key, from Chandler Hutchison forcing the issue and getting to the free throw line to Alex Hobbs and his patented floaters (which haven’t been falling at the rate they did earlier in the season). Fresno State outscored the Rams 52-30 in the paint in the Bulldogs’ 86-65 victory last Saturday.
Boise State is trying to protect its second place status in the Mountain West. The Broncos are 11-4. At 8-6, Fresno State is only a game and a half behind them, and the Bulldogs are hot right now. Their victory over Colorado State was their fourth in a row, all of them coming by 18 or more points. The ‘Dogs play tonight at UNLV, who is still knocking on the door at 8-6. In a battle of 8-6 chasers last night, New Mexico beat Wyoming 119-114. That’s 119-114. In regulation. No overtime. The Lobos shot 62 percent and the Cowboys 58 percent. The teams combined for 26 three-pointers, 38 turnovers, 64 fouls and 81 free throw attempts.
Almost six years after being taken in the first round of the NFL Draft by Tampa Bay, Doug Martin has been released by the Buccaneers. The former Boise State star is a two-time Pro Bowler, but his career has hit a wall, as he rushed for just 827 yards combined and averaged only 2.9 yards per carry over the past two seasons. Martin was benched at the end of last season and was even a healthy scratch for a Monday Night Football game in December after violating a team rule. The Bucs had given him a second chance following an NFL PED suspension a year ago. But all of his career-highs came during his rookie season is 2012.
Martin issued a classy statement thanking the team, his coaches and the community, ending with: “Today is bittersweet. I hate to leave my teammates when there is still work to be done, but respect the organization’s decision. I am in the best shape of my life physically and mentally and my best football is ahead of me. I look forward to the next stage of my career, while wishing everyone in Tampa Bay the very best.” At the age of 29, I’m not sure if Martin’s best football is ahead of him, but he’ll probably get another shot.
Victor’s Breezy Johnson put together a solid run in the women’s downhill in one of the Winter Game’s’ premiere events today—shown live last night on NBC. Johnson was 1:12 back of gold medalist Sofia Goggia of Italy and finished in seventh place (she followed eventual bronze medalist Lindsay Vonn on the course). Johnson, at 22 the youngest member of the U.S. Alpine team, wasn’t assured a start in the downhill untiol she posted two impactful training runs on Sunday and Monday. The highlight late tonight on NBC Sports Network (tomorrow Pyeongchang time): the women’s hockey gold medal game between the U.S., featuring Sun Valley’s Hilary Knight, and rival Canada.
Pro notes of local interest: the loss at Utah Monday didn’t help the Idaho Steelheads in their pursuit of Colorado for the ECHL Mountain Division title. But there’s still a lot of hockey left—19 games remain in the regular season, with the Steelheads sitting four points behind the Eagles. The Steelies open a three-game series at Rapid City tonight. And former Boise Hawk Willson Contreras hasn’t been the most agreeable guy as a major leaguer. Now the Chicago Cubs catcher says he’s ready to go out to the mound as many times as he wants despite the new MLB pace-of-play rules, which limit mound visits to six over the first nine innings of a game. “I don’t even care,” Contreras said yesterday. “If I have to go (out there) again and pay the price for my team I will.” And he may get the heave-ho as a result.
Maybe College of Idaho will look back at its home loss on Senior Night to Oregon Tech as the best thing that could have happened. The Coyotes will try to rebound from that punch in the mouth with the Cascade Conference tournament opener tonight in Caldwell. The top-seeded Yotes meet eighth-seeded Northwest University. And the Boise State women have a pivotal Mountain West game tonight against Colorado State in Taco Bell Arena. The Broncos are the defending Mountain West tournament champions, and the Rams are the defending MW regular season champs. But both are looking up at Wyoming and UNLV in the standings. Boise State is a half-game behind them, and CSU is 1½ games back.
This Day In Sports…February 21, 2003, 15 years ago today:
At the age of 40, Michael Jordan becomes the oldest player ever to score 40 points or more in an NBA game, putting up 43 in the Washington Wizards’ 89-86 victory over the New Jersey Nets. Despite the fact it was his final year, Jordan was the only Wizard to play in all 82 games that season. And he averaged 20 points and six rebounds per game.
(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.)