Boise State is nothing if not resilient. The team that had lost six straight games, most of them in agonizing fashion, pulled itself up by the bootstraps for an 80-52 rout of Air Force Saturday night in Taco Bell Arena. The Broncos picked up a dose of confidence somewhere between Albuquerque and Boise and had it all going, with Derrick Alston and his 22 points acting like a human highlight reel. If the Broncos can play that hard and that well together for 40 minutes in Mountain West Tournament games this week, who knows? Let’s say Alston, Justinian Jessup, Alex Hobbs and Zach Haney are all clicking at the same time in Las Vegas. Sure as heck would be interesting. “We’ve just gotta go down there with the ‘let ‘er rip’ mentality,” said coach Leon Rice. Boise State faces Colorado State Wednesday afternoon.
With Chandler Hutchison paying a Senior Night visit to surprise Haney and David Wacker, the duo was extra-energized in its final home game. Part of the reason was Rice’s decision to start them alongside each other for the first time this season, and the result was early dominance of the Falcons. Haney posted the first 20-point game of his career, with 14 of them coming in a first half punctuated by a three-pointer that put Boise State up by 18. Haney had promised he’d attempt a three—and make it—if it was open. He celebrated with a little air guitar as he ran to the other end of the court. Wacker pulled down seven rebounds, tying for the team high.
BRONCO WOMEN BRACED FOR BATTLES
The top-seeded Boise State women open play at the Mountain West Tournament this afternoon against Nevada, who beat San Jose State 78-68 in Sunday’s first round. It’s a rematch of last year’s championship game. How will the Broncos deal with having targets on their backs during the (hopefully) three-game grind in Las Vegas? “It’s mental toughness, and it’s being able to handle stressful situations and adversity,” coach Gordy Presnell said on KTIK after the win over Air Force in the regular season finale. Presnell goes to Las Vegas as Mountain West Coach of the Year after balloting was announced Sunday. Boise State’s Braydey Hodgins and Riley Lupfer were named first-team all-conference.
CENTURYLINK ARENA CONVERTS TO HOOPS
The hardwood has been carefully placed over the ice in CenturyLink Arena as the Big Sky Basketball Tournaments open today—20 games in six days. The Idaho Vandals are top-seeded on the women’s side and begin play Tuesday at noon versus the winner of today’s first-round game between Northern Arizona and Sacramento State. The Idaho men, after letting a 16-point second half lead slip away at Holt Arena Saturday and suffering a gut-wrenching 70-68 loss to Idaho State, are seeded 11th and play Montana State in the first round Wednesday afternoon. The Vandals are 5-26 on the season. The Bengals, meanwhile, open against Southern Utah Wednesday.
YOTES REACH THE NAIA’S ‘FAB FOUR’
Oregon Tech kept College of Idaho from winning the regular season Cascade Conference championship last month. Now the Coyotes have a chance to avenge that loss tonight on a big stage—in the semifinals of the NAIA Division II Championships In Sioux Falls, SD. The Yotes got there with a thrilling 62-59 over Morningside Saturday night. And that came on the heels of an 86-82 overtime win over Cornerstone Friday that saw C of I rally from a 13-point second half deficit. It’s an exhausting road to the title. Former Centennial standout Talon Pinckney scored a combined 43 points in the two weekend wins. The Yotes have now tied a school record for victories with 31 as they advance to the national semis for the second straight year.
The Northwest Nazarene men fell 89-81 to Seattle Pacific in the GNAC Tournament semifinals Friday. Then the Nighthawks, 20-8 on the season, were left off the at-large list Sunday night for the NCAA Division II Tournament. But the NNU women won it all in Bellingham, WA, Saturday night, topping Alaska-Anchorage 70-64 in the GNAC championship game. The Nighthawks advance to the women’s Division II tournament, securing the No. 2 seed in the West Regional at UC San Diego. NNU will face Humboldt State this Friday.
RYPIEN CAN FLING IT
NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport tweeted a stat that should help Brett Rypien’s cause going into the NFL Draft. “This is cool,” wrote Rapaport. “Got QB ball speed numbers at the Combine.” He reports that Rypien and West Virginia’s Will Grier had the strongest arms in Indianapolis with a 59 miles-per-hour score. Of course, the truth will be told when the pocket collapses and a 330-pound defensive tackle is bearing down, but scouts will like that number alongside the accuracy Rypien displayed at the Combine and his command at the East-West Shrine Game. Tied for third were Michigan State’s Nick Fitzgerald and North Carolina State’s Ryan Finley, the former Bronco, at 57.
STEELHEADS MANAGE TO STAY IN FIRST
The Idaho Steelheads rallied from a four-goal deficit in the final 22 minutes of regulation Saturday night to tie Wichita 5-5, but it was the Thunder taking a 6-5 victory in overtime in CenturyLink Arena. While goalie Colton Point was keeping Wichita at bay in place of starter Ryan Faragher, who was pulled late in the second period, Elgin Pearce was scoring twice during the comeback. But, combined with a 4-2 loss Friday night, the Steelheads dropped two out of their three games against the Thunder. Nevertheless, the point the Steelies picked up in the standings for the OT loss allowed them to regain sole possession of first place in the ECHL Mountain Division.
Boise State’s Allie Ostrander picked up two more first-team All-America honors over the weekend at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships in Birmingham, AL. Ostrander finished fourth in the 3,000-meters and eighth in the 5,000. Alexis Fuller and Kristie Schoffield added second-team All-America awards for the Broncos. The 24th-ranked Boise State women’s softball team has now won 17 games in a row after sweeping four games in the Louisville Slugger Tournament in Stockton, CA. The Broncos have now gone 4-0 in each of their last four tournaments. The Boise State men’s tennis team beat rival Idaho 4-1 Sunday after falling to rival BYU 4-0 on Saturday. And in baseball, Lewis-Clark State took three out of four in its weekend series at College of Idaho.
This Day In Sports…brought to you by COMMERCIAL TIRE…keeping you and your family on the road.
March 11, 1987: Before what is still considered to be the loudest crowd in Pavilion history, Boise State beats Utah, 62-61, in its first-ever NIT game. The Broncos had a one-point lead when Albert Springs drove the length of the floor in the final seconds and was fouled by Arnell Jones. With 10,000-plus fans screaming at him, Springs missed both free throws to preserve BSU’s victory. One of the Utes’ starting guards was Borah High grad Tommy Connor—son of former Bronco coach Bus Connor—who scored 13 points in a return to his home city.
(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.)