Despite the successes of Boise State this winter and the frustrations of Air Force, and despite the fact the teams sported opposite records, the Broncos were favored by just 3½ points going into Saturday’s game at Clune Arena. Those goofy oddsmakers. Did they think it was football season? They didn’t figure on Boise State tying an all-time Mountain West record and breaking the school standard by raining 20 three-pointers on the Falcons—and winning 98-70. James Reid was unconscious, hitting eight of the Broncos’ treys and scoring a career-high 26 points. Nick Duncan awoke with five three-pointers and 23 points. The only drama left in the second half was: would Boise State score 100? The Broncos took their biggest lead at 87-55 with eight minutes left, but they went on cruise control and ultimately emptied the bench.
The list of noteworthy notes from this one is rather lengthy. The 98 points were not only a season-high for the Broncos, they were the most the school has ever scored in a Mountain West game. It was also the highest point total for Boise State in a non-overtime conference game in eight years, since a 104-92 win over New Mexico State in WAC play in 2009. And the 98 points by the Broncos were the most allowed by an Air Force team in 28 years. The 28-point margin of victory was Boise State’s largest in a conference road game in 13 years—and the biggest in any road game in more than six years.
Boise State not only shot 58.8 percent from beyond the arc (20-for-34), it was 64.2 percent from the field overall, the highest number in the Leon Rice era. It was the second-best field goal percentage by the Broncos in the past 26 years. And this stat may have been as pleasing as the 20 three-pointers: Boise State recorded 23 assists, the second-most in Rice’s tenure as head coach. If the Broncos post numbers like that this week in Las Vegas, they will win the Mountain West Tournament and punch a ticket to the NCAA Tournament. If only it were that simple.
Boise State begins tournament play with the late (very late) game Thursday night against the winner of Wednesday’s play-in game between San Diego State and UNLV. Do you think Chandler Hutchison will have an ol’ chip on his shoulder? Hutchison was mentioned all during the conference season as a Mountain West Player of the Year candidate. He did fade a bit at the end, but was it enough for him to be voted second-team All-Mountain West in the media poll? Colorado State’s Gian Clavell was Player of the Year, and CSU’s Larry Eustachy was Coach of the Year, although I’m wondering why Nevada’s Eric Musselman didn’t win there. The Rams were rolling with only seven players, but the three they lost to academic eligibility are ultimately on Eustachy.
The Boise State women appear to be peaking as tournament time begins. The Broncos blasted Air Force 72-48 on Senior Night Friday, extending their winning streak to seven games. Fittingly, senior leader Brooke Pahukoa was the leading scorer with 23 points. Pahukoa was also named Mountain West Player of the Week yesterday. Now it’s on to the MW Tournament, where fourth-seeded Boise State meets fifth-seeded New Mexico tomorrow afternoon in Las Vegas. More on men’s hoops: Idaho finished a final-weekend road sweep with an 84-75 win at Southern Utah Saturday night. The Vandals thus earned a first-round bye in as the No. 4 seed this week in the Big Sky Tournament in Reno.
Boise State spring football will be greeted today by what is technically a late-winter day. How about that high of 42? The chill should invigorate a Bronco offensive line operating under unique circumstances. Scott Huff is off to Seattle to coach the Washington offensive line, and graduate assistant Nate Potter is left to hold together a patchwork unit that will spend the spring without Mason Hampton, Archie Lewis, Garrett Larson and John Molchon on the field. All four players are rehabbing after offseason surgery. Coach Bryan Hardin says the situation shouldn’t prevent the Broncos from installing new schemes on the O-line. It’s not like Hampton, Lewis, Larson and Molchon are going to be sitting at home watching soap operas.
The most ballyhooed number at the NFL Combine is the 40-yard dash time, and both Boise State representatives were at the top of their games in Indianapolis. Jeremy McNichols tied for seventh among running backs Friday with a 4.49, and Tanner Vallejo tied for eighth in the linebackers group yesterday by running a 4.67. McNichols finished eighth or better in all five of his on-field drills. Vallejo also competed in the jumping drills yesterday and tied for ninth in the broad jump and 10th in the vertical leap. McNichols and Vallejo now gear up for the NFL Draft at the end of next month. McNichols will be skipping Boise State’s Pro Day on March 30 due to his pending shoulder surgery.
One of the biggest developments of the Combine came Friday, when Washington wide receiver John Ross set a new Combine record by running the 40 in 4.22 seconds. That eclipsed the old standard of 4.24 set by Chris Johnson in 2008. Boise State faced Johnson and Ross at the opposite ends of their college careers. Johnson rushed for 223 yards and piled up an NCAA bowl record 408 all-purposes yards against the Broncos in his collegiate finale, East Carolina’s 41-38 win in the 2007 Hawaii Bowl. Ross made his debut with the Huskies in their 38-6 rout of Boise State in 2013, catching four passes for 39 yards and returning two kickoffs for 41 yards.
A pretty impressive mirror image. In back-to-back nights over the weekend, the Idaho Steelheads exploded for three goals in the third period as they finished a three-game sweep at Rapid City. On Saturday night, Brian Nugent scored two goals, the second the ultimate game-winner with 13½ minutes left in the game in a 4-2 win, the Steelheads’ fourth in a row. That was preceded Friday by a 3-1 come-from-behind victory. Goalies Landon Bow and Branden Komm each had a hand in the two triumphs—Bow clocked 29 saves in 30 attempts Friday, and Komm stopped 37 of 39 shots by the Rush Saturday.
Congratulations to Rocky Mountain, who captured its first state boys basketball championship with a 72-51 win over Centennial in the 5A title game Saturday night. The most pleasing sight was that of a packed Ford Idaho Center for the finals in 5A and 4A (where Vallivue lost a 56-52 overtime thriller to Preston). The least pleasing sight was a six-page Statesman sports section yesterday, deservedly dominated by the final results of the state tournaments, but short-changing all other sports, including Boise State’s win over Air Force. Certainly the Statesman could have blocked out 2-4 more pages for sports on one of the biggest local days of the year. Hey Prater: talk to Debra Leithauser and get this taken care of!
This Day In Sports…March 6, 1947:
Dick Fosbury, the originator of the “Fosbury Flop” high jump, is born. Fosbury won the gold medal in his event at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, leaping 7 feet, 4¼ inches—then an Olympic record. The former Oregon State star later became a prominent Ketchum resident. Dick Fosbury…70 years old today.
(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.)