Nevada has stars, and the Wolf Pack hopes they bust out tonight in the battle for the Mountain West lead in Taco Bell Arena. Boise State has emerging stars, and the Broncos hope they’re not just good, but great in this evening’s showdown. Paris Austin and Chandler Hutchison have both scored in double figures in each of the last six games. That’s not news for Hutchison, who’s done that in 17 of 18 games this season. But it’s significant for Austin as he becomes a focal point of this team. The sophomore point guard has handled his role well, mainly driving to the hole and making free throws to get his points. Three-point shooting is not Austin’s forte, as he’s just 3-for-17 from three-point range this season. Tonight he’ll need 94 feet of excellence—he had six turnovers last Saturday at San Jose State.
Nevada has perhaps the best starting five in the Mountain West, but the Boise State would seem to have the edge in depth, especially if Alex Hobbs picks up where he left off at San Jose State. Hobbs, the true freshman guard, scored seven points against the Spartans, all in the first half. He played 14 minutes, his most since Thanksgiving weekend. In fact, the points were Hobbs’ first since November 25. “It’s a testament to Alex and what he’s been doing in practice,” said coach Leon Rice. “I’ve seen it coming.” Thing is, the Broncos are deep at guard right now, so Hobbs’ opportunities may remain occasional. “It doesn’t help us rest Nick, and it doesn’t help us rest Chandler, but it allows us to play small and put our best five guys out there.”
Don’t be startled when you see Nevada wearing pink uniforms tonight. The Wolf Pack’s new duds will honor the Coaches vs. Cancer’s “Suits and Sneakers Week” in college basketball, a collaboration between the American Cancer Society and the National Association of Basketball Coaches that has raised more than $100 million since its inception in 1993. No matter what color it wears, Eric Musselman has really resurrected this program since taking over for the fired David Carter in the spring of 2016. Musselman has gone 40-18 with a title in last year’s College Basketball Invitational, and his team is now the one to beat in the Mountain West.
Ben Roethlisberger’s hints at retirement yesterday got me to thinking about how long the Pittsburgh quarterback has been in the NFL, and where he came from. And from there it’s a reach—all the way into the remarkable sustainability of the Boise State football program. Let’s rewind to 2003, Roethlisberger’s senior year at Miami of Ohio. The Redhawks went 13-1 and finished No. 10 in the AP Poll and No. 12 in the Coaches Poll. That same season, the Broncos were also 13-1 and ended up No. 16 in AP and No. 15 on the Coaches list. It was their second year with a Top 25 finish.
So what has happened since Roethlisberger was selected No. 11 overall in the 2004 NFL Draft? Miami has had just three winning seasons and has appeared in three bowl games. The Redhawks endured an 0-12 season in 2013 and have had one 1-11 record and a pair of 2-10 campaigns. In the same 13-season span, Boise State has not had a losing season and has earned a bowl bid every year. The Broncos have logged 10 seasons of 10 wins or more with two undefeated campaigns. The point is, what Boise State has built is a true program. It’s a very difficult thing to do.
It seems like sooner or later, everybody works with everybody in college football. Tim DeRuyter, who was fired as head coach at Fresno State last fall, has been hired as defensive coordinator by Justin Wilcox at Cal. Wilcox is the guy who recruited Kellen Moore to Boise State when Kellen’s younger brother Kirby was a sophomore at Prosser High. Kirby’s now the wide receivers coach at Fresno State under Jeff Tedford, who used to be head coach at Cal. And so it goes.
The Idaho Steelheads have embarked on their first trip to Alaska this season, opening a three-game series tonight against the Aces. Alaska might have the league’s hottest player, Peter Sivak, who leads the league with 30 goals. But the Steelheads have one of the hottest goalies, Branden Komm, who’s won seven of his nine starts with a 2.31 goals-against average and a .929 save percentage. Idaho also brings in forward Anthony Luciani, the guy with the longest active points streak in the ECHL at 11 games. Luciani has seven goals and 15 points in that stretch. The Steelies have won four of six games against the Aces this season, all of them at CenturyLink Arena.
Bulletin: The Los Angeles D-Fenders will become the South Bay Lakers at the conclusion of the 2016-17 NBA D-League season. The D-Fenders, who are owned by the Lakers, can now take advantage of the parent club’s brand—although it’s more for the players than the fans. The team doesn’t really care how many people show up at the Toyota Sports Center, the Lakers’ practice facility in El Segundo with a capacity in the hundreds. That’s kind of the way it’s going in the D-League, witness the team formerly known as the Idaho Stampede, the Salt Lake City Stars, playing in the shadow of the Utah Jazz at Salt Lake Community College. The D-Fenders, incidentally, are tied for the best record in the league at 20-6 under former Boise State and Stampede standout Coby Karl.
Going into their game tonight at Nevada, the Boise State women lead the Mountain West in scoring, averaging 72.4 points per game. A key component of that is three-point shooting, and that will be tell-tale this evening in Reno. The Broncos shot 38.8 percent from three-point range in non-conference play, best in the MW and ranked 17th nationally. Since the start of conference games, Boise State is hitting only 29.9 percent from beyond the arc, eighth-best in Mountain West play.
This Day In Sports…January 25, 1971:
Boise State turns in its highest-scoring game ever in a 118-96 win over Portland State in Bronco Gym. Bronco scoring leader Ron Austin led the way with 41 points, still one of only three 40-point games in BSU history. Austin would go on to average 24½ points a game in 1970-71, still a school record.
(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.)