At some point, Boise State coach Leon Rice has to get some credit for keeping his team together. The Broncos, of course, have lost nine games by one possession or in overtime this season. Were it not for their intestinal fortitude, they wouldn’t have lost by just one point to Nevada and two to Fresno State and one to New Mexico—and in overtime to Utah State and UNLV. Those would have been double-digit defeats in regulation, as many teams would have essentially shut down. But Boise State has been getting up off the mat all the way through and finally got over the hump with its rout of Air Force. Can the Broncos get something done at the Mountain West Tournament? Maybe, maybe not. But one win in Las Vegas would further demonstrate that these guys have not cashed in their chips.
If Boise State has designs on going more than one round in Vegas, it’ll need its bench. The remarkable thing about the win over Air Force Saturday: the Broncos pretty much did it with only six players. Malek Harwell didn’t appear until nine minutes remained in the game, and RJ Williams and Patrick Dembley weren’t subbed in until less than five minutes were left, when seniors Zach Haney and David Wacker were ceremoniously removed. Hard to tell what it means, especially in Williams’ case. He had played only eight minutes at New Mexico, but he was healthy against the Falcons—witness his forceful jam of Dembley’s bounce-pass off the glass with just over two minutes left.
BRONCO WOMEN WIN A WEIRD ONE
Nobody said it would be easy, but nobody said it would be bizarre, either. The Boise State women went through two devastating droughts Monday in the quarterfinals of the Mountain West Tournament against eighth-seeded Nevada. Braydey Hodgins eventually shot the Broncos out of the first one with 20 first-half points for a 39-37 lead at the intermission. But after taking a 67-56 lead with six minutes left in the game another lull struck, and the Broncos would not make another basket. The Wolf Pack the went on an 11-0 run to tie it up as Boise State missed free throws left and right. The Broncos survived somehow, winning 72-67.
The Pack had a 12-rebound advantage in the game and shot a much higher percentage. The difference was turnovers—and Hodgins. Boise State committed only eight turnovers to Nevada’s 23, providing the top seed with 15 extra possessions. And how about this? The Broncos had one player in double-figures. Hodgins poured in an unfathomable 37 points, a Mountain West Tournament record. “We want to be balanced, but Braydey can really shine in very stressful times,” said coach Gordy Presnell. “I’m so proud of Braydey Hodgins.” Understatement of the year. Boise State’s next assignment is fourth-seeded Fresno State tonight.
A STUNNING RUN SINKS C OF I
The ride for the College of Idaho men at the NAIA Division II Championships ended in the semifinals for the second straight year Monday night in Sioux Falls, SD. And what can the Coyotes say? Cascade Conference rival Oregon Tech put together an unbelievable 24-1 run to end the first half, holding the Yotes without a bucket for 10 minutes, a disastrous 0-for-15 stretch, to take a commanding 52-29 lead at the break. C of I whittled away in the second half, but the Owls came away with a 93-81 victory to advance to tonight’s championship game. And so ends an historic Yotes season, a school record-tying 31 wins against six losses in Colby Blaine’s first campaign as head coach.
VANDAL WOMEN WANT 20 – AND MORE
The Big Sky women’s tournament gets down to brass tacks today at noon in CenturyLink Arena as top-seeded Idaho faces Northern Arizona, a 74-69 first-round winner over Sacramento State. The Vandals are going for their 20th win of the season against 10 losses. You may recall that Idaho gave Boise State everything it wanted on a neutral court in Long Beach, CA, on Thanksgiving weekend before falling 91-85. Ironically, NAU and Sac State also meet in a first-round game on the men’s side bright and early Wednesday morning. The winner faces top-seeded Montana, which come in at 23-8. The No. 2 seed in the men’s tournament is Northern Colorado, coached by former Boise State assistant Jeff Linder.
PARADIS HAS LEVERAGE
After removing all the “franchise tagees,” Sheil Kapadia of The Athletic has reshuffled his list of the NFL’s top 50 free agents. They’re all fair game now as the new league year starts on Wednesday. Kapadia and his Athletic colleagues attempt to match the top 50 players to teams “based on need, scheme fit, cap space and how organizations have historically operated.” Kapadia sees former Boise State star and current Denver center Matt Paradis as a New York Jet. “They have to upgrade their offensive line,” Kapadia notes. “Paradis was sidelined for seven games last season, but didn’t miss a start from 2015-17. The center market got a boost last week when Jason Kelce signed an extension (with Philadelphia) that will pay him $11 million per year.” Denver observers are suggesting the Broncos can’t afford Paradis.
A GIDDY GOLFER IN FLORIDA THIS WEEK
There is one highly-reinvigorated player entered at TPC Sawgrass this week. Former Boise State star Troy Merritt could hardy contain himself Monday on Twitter, posting: “It’s (The Players Championship) week!! Thanks to Dr. Greg Pearl for performing my surgery, and thanks to Matt Candau, and his team, at Performance PT of Idaho!! These guys got me ready a month quicker than was expected!! Excited to tee it up again!!” In January, Merritt had the top rib on his left side removed. His emergency blood clot surgery before the PGA Championship last August was related to the condition that forced the procedure. Merritt said yesterday on Idaho SportsTalk his original targeted return was mid-April. If he has some rough spots this week, Merritt says, “I can’t let them beat me up, because I shouldn’t be there.”
BK PRODUCT HANGS ON IN THE BIGS
Bishop Kelly grad Josh Osich has a “second second chance” to keep his major league career going. After being signed by Baltimore about three weeks ago, Osich was designated for assignment by the Orioles over the weekend. Now the Chicago White Sox have claimed the lefthanded reliever. Osich’s rookie year was stellar for the San Francisco Giants in 2015, when he posted a 2.20 ERA. But his numbers have ballooned since then—he allowed 11 earned runs in 12 innings for the Giants last season. Making the White Sox roster poses another challenge for Osich.
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March 12, 1996: The College of Idaho, then known as Albertson College, beats Whitworth in overtime, 81-72, to win the NAIA Division II national basketball championship at Montgomery Fieldhouse in Nampa. Boise State transfer Damon Archibald scored 23 of his game-high 29 points in the second half to help give Albertson coach Marty Holly the crown jewel of his 19-year stint leading the Yotes.
(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.)