Broncos escape the late Marqueze squeeze

It looked like this time the Broncos were going to finish a game without some drama. Boise State had just matched its biggest lead of the night with four minutes left in the game at 61-47. It looked like this time the Broncos were going to finish a game without some drama. But Nevada’s Marqueze Coleman went on a personal 9-0 run, and another Wolf Pack bucket got the lead down to three points with 1:12 left. That’s when Nick Duncan drained a three-pointer from the corner, propelling Boise State to a 74-67 win last night, it’s school record-tying 10th in a row. Duncan’s three was the Broncos’ only one of the second half—they’re now 2-for-21 from beyond the arc after the break in the last two games. And they shot just 41 percent overall in the unfriendly confines in Reno. But BSU trusted the other facets of its game. “Defense travels and rebounding travels,” said coach Leon Rice after the game. “Sometimes your shooting doesn’t travel.”

As streaky as it was, Boise State got big plays at big times throughout. James Webb III spread his throughout the game, notching a double-double with 14 points and 14 rebounds. Mikey Thompson twice stopped Nevada runs with layins (he scored a team-high 18 points). There was Duncan’s aforementioned dagger three, and there was true freshman Paris Austin playing an unusually-high 15 minutes on the road and helping key the Broncos’ run midway through the second half. Austin has really grown since his benching at Portland last month. “That kid’s got a lot of moxie, and I like his moxie in a game like this,” said Rice.

There was a very strange sequence with just under 15 minutes left in the game. It didn’t change momentum either way, but hey, Rice was called for a technical foul. The usually mild-mannered Boise State coach got the “T” when he went ballistic after an apparent charge taken by Anthony Drmic was instead called a foul on him. Then 17 seconds later, Nevada coach Eric Musselman was whistled for a technical himself. The net gain was two points for the Broncos. What did decide this game was Boise State’s ability to get to the free throw line. It’s become one of the themes of this season. The Broncos went 26-for-36 at the stripe and were 8-for-10 in the final minute. During their 10-game winning streak, they’ve averaged 28 free throw attempts per game to their opponents’ 12.

Elsewhere in the Mountain West last night, Boise State’s next opponent, just like the Broncos, moved to 4-0 in the Mountain West. San Diego State pulled away after Colorado State had tied the game a minute left to win in Fort Collins, 69-62. The Aztecs now make their way to Boise for the Saturday night showdown. Conference wins have been hard to come by for San Jose State, but the Spartans picked up their first one of the season—and only their second in 41 tries as an MW school—62-55 over Wyoming. On Tuesday night, UNLV showed new energy and effort in its first game under interim coach Todd Simon and rolled past New Mexico in the Thomas & Mack Center, 86-74, while Utah State was cruising past Air Force, 79-60.

Sports Illustrated’s Thayer Evans reports that it’ll be Ashley Ambrose taking over for Julius Brown as secondary coach at Boise State. With an increasingly well-worn path between Boise State and the NFL among defensive backs, Ambrose would appear to be a particularly good fit. He logged 42 interceptions in 141 games in the NFL, including an All-Pro season with Cincinnati in 1996 that produced eight picks. Ambrose comes from the cornerbacks post at Texas State. He spent the 2014 season at Idaho and has also coached at Cal and Colorado (for former Bronco coach Dan Hawkins). Whatever happened to Gerald Alexander? Not only did the former Boise State star not land on his alma mater’s staff, he hasn’t been announced as a new secondary coach hire at Montana State either.

The Big 12 can comfortably stay at 10 schools now that the NCAA has passed the conference’s proposal to hold a championship game with fewer than 12 teams. Not that the Big 12 will, said commissioner Bob Bowlsby. But, “we are constantly monitoring the environment,” he told reporters after the vote. “What it does, it keeps us from being forced to expand.” That pours cold water on Boise State’s longshot hopes of being invited to the Big 12, and it’s especially bad news for BYU, who has been seen as first in line for expansion. The vote also affects Idaho. When Coastal Carolina joins the Sun Belt in 2018, it’ll have 12 teams, when now it only needs 10 to hold a title game. The Sun Belt will vote in March whether to extend its football-only agreement with Idaho and New Mexico State beyond 2017. The Vandals’ FBS future is cloudy indeed.

Troy Merritt is staying in Hawaii for the Sony Open after an 18th-place finish last week at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. For Graham DeLaet and Tyler Aldridge, today’s tee-off at Waialae Country Club marks their first PGA Tour action of the new year. DeLaet, who was a little off his game last season, played three events during the fall portion of the tour. The former Boise State star made two of three cuts, but he finished middle-of-the-pack in those tournaments. Nevertheless, DeLaet probably still pinches himself when he rewinds to his situation five years ago. He played in only two tour events in 2011 due to a back injury and was granted a medical exemption for 26 events the following year. It only took him 18 tournaments to exceed the required threshold in earnings in 2012, though, and he’s been a PGA Tour mainstay ever since.

The Idaho Steelheads are gearing up for a weekend series against Tulsa, and they go into it brimming with optimism. It has been confirmed that those two 1-0 wins last week were the first such back-to-back shutouts in the Steelheads’ ECHL era. Jack Campbell was between the pipes for both of them—his personal shutout streak was finally snapped in the 3-1 loss at Utah last Saturday after 181 minutes and 21 seconds. Despite scoring just one goal in each of their last four games, the Steelies came out of it 2-2.

Baseball arbitration is kind of a dry subject, but it’ll be really interesting in the near-term for former Boise Hawk Josh Donaldson. Tuesday was the deadline for eligible players to file for arbitration, and 156 guys did this year. Donaldson, the reigning American League Most Valuable Player, tops the list after making “only” $4.3 million with Toronto last season. In exchange, the star third baseman produced a .297 batting average, 41 home runs, and 123 RBIs. Projections have Donaldson in line for a raise of about $8 million.

Back to hoops—Idaho didn’t get the calling-card win it yearned for last Saturday at Eastern Washington, falling 74-60 to the Eagles. The Vandals have a chance to get back on track tonight and Saturday, though, when they host Northern Arizona and Southern Utah in Cowan Spectrum. The Lumberjacks are 3-11, and the Thunderbirds are 3-10. Idaho, now 10-6 overall and 2-1 in the Big Sky, has been doing it with balance this season. The Vandals’ top scorer, Perrion Callendret, is just 14th in the conference at 14.4 points per game. But just behind him at 16th is Victor Sanders with a 13.9 average.

The Idaho Stampede, now 3-1 in January, try to keep it going tonight at Rio Grande Valley. It feels a lot different than a year ago, when the Stampede were mired in a slump that saw them lose 25 of 26 games. The Vipers feature newly-named D-League Performer of the Week Raphiael Putney. In three different games last week, the former UMass star posted 38 points, 21 rebounds and six blocked shots.

This Day In Sports…January 14, 1968:

The Green Bay Packers win the Super Bowl for the second consecutive year, dropping the Oakland Raiders, 33-14. It would be coach Vince Lombardi’s final game with Green Bay and would mark the end of the Packers dynasty. And it produced another famous picture of former Idaho Vandal great Jerry Kramer—helping carry the victorious Lombardi off the field at Miami’s Orange Bowl.

(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.)