Good start, shaky middle, big finish

It was another example of the beginning of a game telling you nothing about what was to come. Air Force was held scoreless for the first 4½ minutes while Boise State was creating some instant distance Saturday in Taco Bell Arena. The Broncos built a lead that reached 14 points with 5½ minutes left in the first half. Then came a 10-0 run by the Falcons, who suddenly didn’t look like a team that was winless on the road. The game went into see-saw mode early in the second half, with Air Force going up 60-59 with 7:18 left. But then came a 13-0 Boise State run in less than 3½ minutes, and the Broncos won 76-66. There’s something to be said for a young team that knows how to win. Twelve Mountain West games down and six to go, and Boise State’s still in first.

Justinian Jessup has patiently waited for his mojo to return, and there it was Saturday versus Air Force. The true freshman contributed a three-pointer and a pair of free throws during Boise State’s late-game run, part of a 14-point day that tied him with Paris Austin for team-high honors. Jessup also hit the trey that gave the Broncos that 14-point lead in the first half. He has now made 45 three-pointers in his debut season, four behind Coby Karl and 12 back of Anthony Drmic on Boise State’s all-time freshman list.

It was an odd afternoon for both Chandler Hutchison and Nick Duncan. Hutchison was just 1-for-7 from the field, with his only bucket coming on an emphatic dunk with 1:48 left in the game. But he had nine points from the free throw line and 11 for the game. Combine those with his 11 rebounds, and Hutchison posted his ninth double-double of the season. Duncan, who has had massive struggles from beyond the arc, connected on his first three-point attempt of the day and hit two more before halftime—and he implored the crowd to celebrate with him each time. Duncan was scoreless in the second half and was missing three free throws when Air Force took its first lead of the game, but the positives sure outweighed the negatives.

The Broncos had to wait until yesterday to see if they had company again at the top Mountain West. They don’t. Nevada and San Diego State played a Sunday matinee at Viejas Arena, and the struggling Aztecs looked like their old selves in taking down the Wolf Pack 70-56. SDSU had it going defensively, holding the Pack to 30 percent shooting from the floor. Nevada’s Marcus Marshall, the conference’s leading scorer, went 1-for-10 from the field and scored four points. Boise State thus tries to protect its solo perch tomorrow night when it goes to The Pit for a pivotal game against New Mexico.

Considering the track record of the current Boise Hawks ownership in combination stadium and commercial developments, you knew a project in Boise was possible. But Friday’s news came out of the blue. Greenstone Properties could have a stadium at Americana Boulevard and Shoreline Drive ready for play as soon as the spring of 2019? There’s still a lot of transaction work to be done, but it’s obvious the city and the Hawks group are serious about making something finally happen. At least its past first base. They’re talking about a 5,000-seat facility. One suggestion: design it so it’s expandable to 10,000 so that the door is always open for a Triple-A franchise in the future.

It’s the winter of discomfort for Denver Broncos center Matt Paradis. The former Boise State star is set to undergo a second hip surgery in Vail—this one on his left hip after arthroscopic surgery on his right hip five weeks ago. For much of last season, Paradis practiced only one day a week due to the pain in his hips. Nevertheless, he played every snap on offense for Denver for the second straight season and was voted the Broncos’ 2016 Ed Block Courage Award winner. Paradis was graded the top center in the NFL by Pro Football Focus, having allowed only three sacks and 17 total pressures. He’s expected to be ready to go by the beginning of the regular season.

The first shutout handed the Idaho Steelheads on home ice this season? Nothing a little Anthony Luciani hat trick can’t cure. After Wheeling blanked the Steelheads 3-0 Friday night in CenturyLink Arena, the home team battled back with a 5-1 victory Saturday night that featured five unanswered goals. Luciani did all his damage in the final half of the game, as his (and the Steelies’) first goal found the net with nine minutes left in the second period. The crafty 5-8 forward scored his second goal late in the second and added another late in the third. It was Idaho’s first hat trick of the season. The Steelheads now face a critical part of the schedule, as they play the next eight games on the road before returning home March 10.

The Boise State women could not afford a loss at Air Force Saturday, but the Falcons were hanging around in the first half. The Broncos motored up with a 23-point third quarter, though, and won 69-59 in Clune Arena. They also clinched a fourth straight winning season. Elsewhere in hoops, the Idaho men’s recent run was reeled in by North Dakota, 88-65. Victor Sanders was held to 11 points in the loss. NNU fell 90-81 at Saint Martin’s in GNAC play despite 26 points and 11 rebounds from Maurice Jones.

And College of Idaho clinched a home date in the quarterfinals of the Cascade Conference Tournament and nailed a 20-win season. The Coyotes avenged their worst loss of the season by drilling Oregon Tech 96-78 Friday night. The Yotes then dropped Southern Oregon 87-70 Saturday night. Aitor Zubizarreta combined for 40 points in the two games, the second of which happened to be Basque Night in the J.A. Albertsons Activities Center.

Other campus things: the eighth-ranked Boise State women’s gymnastics team lost at No. 12 Denver by just five-hundredths of a point Saturday. All the other news was good. The Broncos posted their highest road score in history, a 197.075, keeping them in position to maintain their ranking. In tennis over the weekend, the Boise State men beat Idaho State 5-0 before falling 4-2 to BYU and 4-1 to Utah. The Bronco women edged Portland 4-3 and swept ISU 7-0 to move to 5-1 on the season. The Boise State wrestling team split yesterday, dropping Cal Poly 23-16 and losing to Arizona State 39-6. And the College of Idaho ski teams hosted their one home race of the season Saturday. The C of I women won the final NWCSC slalom qualifier of the season at Bogus Basin, with the Yotes men finishing second.

This Day In Sports…February 13, 1954:

On his way to establishing the college basketball records for points in a season and a career, Furman sharpshooter Frank Selvy sinks 41 field goals and 18 free throws to score 100 points in a 149-95 shellacking of Newberry, shattering the NCAA single-game record of 73. Rio Grande’s Clarence “Bevo” Francis would score 113 against Hillsdale College the same season. Those were the top two totals in history until Grinnell College’s Jack Taylor poured in an unimaginable 138 points against Faith Baptist Bible in November, 2012.

(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.)