In a game as important to Boise State as the one against San Diego State Saturday night, you’d expect the Broncos’ top scorers to be Chandler Hutchison and Paris Austin. Or even Nick Duncan and Justinian Jessup. But Zach Haney and James Reid? Each player scored 19 points as Boise State moved to 4-0 in Mountain West play with a 78-66 win over the Aztecs in Taco Bell Arena. It was symptomatic of what’s happening in what is supposed to be a rebuilding year for the Broncos. The Boise State bench outscored San Diego State’s 40-5. The Broncos aren’t the most talented team in the conference, but the guys coming off the bench are becoming interchangeable parts with the starters. It’s why you can’t figure out which of their three big men is the feature guy. And it doesn’t matter. Haney, by the way, had never even scored in double figures before.
Live by the three, die by the three. Boise State was dying by the three early in the game, missing its first five attempts from beyond the arc while San Diego State’s Max Hoetzel was nailing a trio of them. The Broncos were down 21-10 in the first half, and then along came Reid. He drilled three straight three-pointers to get Boise State back in the game. Then just before the half Reid hit a fourth trey to give the Broncos their first lead of the game, and they were up 39-35 going into the break. All this happened without Nick Duncan so much as taking a shot in 13 minutes of floor time. Duncan’s first attempt of the night was just after halftime, and it was a three that swished. Three of Duncan’s four treys gave Boise State its biggest lead of the night at the time, keeping momentum intact.
It was kind of ironic that Boise State designated this game as a White-Out, because that’s what we had outside as Snowpocalypse 2017 hit its peak. Nevertheless, a crowd of 4,411 turned out (more than 7,500 tickets had been distributed for the game). Even San Diego Union-Tribune writer Mark Zeigler, who’s accustomed to the sellout crowds of 12,414 in Viejas Arena, took note. Wrote Zeigler, “Perhaps the most impressive part about Saturday’s game at Taco Bell Arena was that people actually were there to see it. Boise continued to be pummeled by snow—the most in three decades—and the plows have been overwhelmed. It snowed all day. Overnight temperatures were sub-zero. The students are on winter break. It was a 9 o’clock Mountain time tip. And still 4,411 people showed up.”
The Broncos have the weekday bye this week, so they’ll watch Mountain West developments from afar. Nevada is right on the Broncos’ heels at 3-1 after the Game of the Night in the conference Saturday, the Wolf Pack’s 105-104 overtime victory at New Mexico. The Lobos blew a 25-point lead with 11 minutes to play and watched Nevada hit seven three-pointers in the final 1:49 of regulation. In fact, the Pack scored 15 points in the final minute to tie the game. Then Jordan Caroline hit one final trey with two seconds remaining in the OT to win it.
There were assumptions made that because former Boise State athletic director Mark Coyle is now at Minnesota, Bronco coach Bryan Harsin would be a target for the open position with the Gophers. But Coyle got his man, hiring Western Michigan coach P.J. Fleck Friday. It’s a great fit for Fleck—it would not have been a good fit for Harsin. The Midwest recruiting learning curve would have been steep for Harsin. Fleck knows the drill back there. And if he can get the Gophers to buy in to his infectious “Row The Boat” mantra, this thing could go. Besides, Boise State AD Curt Apsey said Friday on Idaho SportsTalk that—in his opinion—Harsin was not interested in that job. Harsin probably would have enjoyed Minnesota as much as Gary Andersen enjoyed Wisconsin. It’s just different.
With Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill out yesterday, Pittsburgh’s natural tendency was to zero in on Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi as the NFL Playoffs opened. After all, the former Boise State star had torched the Steelers with 204 rushing yards and two touchdowns in a 30-15 win in October. Well, it worked. Ajayi was held to just 33 yards on 16 carries as Pittsburgh coasted to a 30-12 victory to advance on the AFC side. Ajayi was also flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct for pushing a Steeler after Miami QB Matt Moore had taken a wicked cheap shot in the second quarter. Ajayi ended the day (and the season) with a fourth-quarter injury to his ailing left shoulder.
After last Wednesday’s 6-1 walloping at the hands of the Idaho Steelheads, you figured the Alaska Aces weren’t going to sit on their skates over the weekend. But it wasn’t until about three minutes remained in the three-game series that the Aces woke up. Trailing 4-2 late in the third period Saturday night in CenturyLink Arena, Alaska tallied twice to tie it up—then won 5-4 in overtime. That offset a two-goal night by Will Merchant, and it was only the second time in his last 12 appearances that goalie Branden Komm allowed more than two goals in a game. But it didn’t negate the fact that the Steelheads took two out of three from the Aces, with the two victories coming by a combined 10-2. And now the Steelies are just two points out of first place behind Allen and Colorado in the ECHL’s Mountain Division.
Back to hoops, the Boise State women led 61-54 at San Diego State going into the fourth quarter Saturday. Then the Aztecs uncorked an amazing 30-point period and outdistanced the Broncos 84-77, handing BSU its second straight Mountain West loss. Ironically, Boise State shut out San Diego State in the fourth quarter of a win last season at Viejas Arena. Marijke Vanderschaaf posted a career-high 22 points and seven rebounds, but the Broncos had trouble getting her the ball in the final quarter, much to coach Gordy Presnell’s chagrin.
The most bizarre scene of the weekend happened in Las Vegas, where there was a bench-clearing brawl between the UNLV and Utah State women’s basketball teams. The Rebels’ Katie Powell and the Aggies’ Antoina Robinson started shoving each other after another player was fouled. Players from both teams jumped into the scuffle as officials tried to separate Powell and Robinson. Four players from each team were ejected. Despite finishing the game with only six players, UNLV won 55-53 in overtime.
The College of Idaho men swept Multnomah and Warner Pacific over the weekend in Caldwell. Multnomah pulled to within two points of the Coyotes in the second half Friday night before the home team went on a 26-4 run and won going away, 69-46. The Yotes led Warner Pacific by 17 points in the second half Saturday night, then held on for a 71-67 win. C of I is now 13-5 and remains tied for second in the Cascade Conference. Elsewhere, Northwest Nazarene held Montana State Billings, coming off back-to-back 100-point games, to 77 points Saturday night. But NNU was done in by foul trouble and fell to the Yellowjackets 77-72.
This Day In Sports…January 9, 1977, 40 years ago today:
The Oakland Raiders overwhelm the Minnesota Vikings, 32-14, in Super Bowl XI, played at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. For the Vikings, it was their fourth consecutive Super Bowl loss. For the Raiders, it was the crowning moment of John Madden’s coaching career, with the lasting memory being Willie Brown’s 75-yard return of a Fran Tarkenton interception. In slo-mo.
(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.)