The Broncos didn’t stay the course

Boise State’s hallmark of this season has been its ability to take care of the basketball. Boise State’s hallmark of this season has been its ability to take care of the basketball. That did not happen last night. The Broncos turned it over a season-high 18 times, giving UNLV a slew of extra possessions in an 87-77 loss to the Rebels at the Thomas & Mack Center. The mistakes were especially egregious in the second half, when Boise State frittered away an eight-point lead and was outscored by 18. At the break, things were fine. The Broncos had taken the crowd of 12,586 out of the game and seemed to have the Rebels in the heels. (Who made UNLV’s halftime locker room speech, anyway?) The bottom line: this unfocused effort hurts Boise State’s resume for an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament. The Broncos would almost need to win out in the regular season to get that look.

The question off the top: which UNLV team would we see? On paper, the Rebels are the most talented team in the conference. On the court, they’ve often been disjointed. But after the loss at Nevada last Saturday, UNLV went into bunker mode in practice. “We didn’t have any football pads out, but a few of the seats in the stands were casualties,” UNLV interim coach Todd Simon said. The result was a more physical, mentally-tough version of the Rebels. “They set their defense and sped us up a little bit,” said Boise State coach Leon Rice. “Credit UNLV—they did a great job.” The Broncos didn’t get many stops at the other end, either. The evidence is in the Rebels’ stunning 55-point performance in the second half.

One Rebel blue-chipper in particular rose to the occasion on Red-Out Night in Las Vegas. Patrick McCaw was rated the No. 38 shooting guard in the country coming out of high school in Rockville, MD, but he had posted only two double-digit scoring performances in the previous 10 games. Last night, though, he scored 25 points, looking every bit the NBA prospect most expect him to be. Included were some dagger three-pointers in the second half. One came midway through, giving UNLV a lead it would not relinquish (followed shortly thereafter by a steal and a dunk during a 9-0 run). Another trey with just under two minutes remaining gave the Rebels an 80-72 lead. Two free throws by McCaw 30 seconds later essentially ended it.

Zak Hill, who had been the highly-successful quarterbacks coach at Eastern Washington for seven years (Vernon Adams, anyone?), was hired as Hawaii’s offensive coordinator just 49 days ago. Now it appears Hill is the new O.C. and QB coach at Boise State. Next, everyone will try to figure out his role. Will he primarily work with the quarterbacks and serve as an apprentice coordinator under offensive wiz Bryan Harsin? Or does he have the keys to the car? Mike Prater suggested yesterday on Idaho SportsTalk that Kellen Moore’s family and Brett Rypien’s family supported this hire. That’s a pretty good endorsement of Hill.

It’s an understandable move on Hill’s part on several fronts. He’ll earn considerably more money in a place with a much, much lower cost-of-living, and he won’t be starting from scratch with the Broncos like he would be with the Warriors. During Hill’s time at Eastern, the Eagles at least shared the Big Sky championship six times and won the 2010 FCS National Championship. Boise State wide receivers coach Junior Adams was on the EWU staff with Hill for most of that hardware haul. Adams had to have some influence, too. Not to forget that new Hawaii coach Nick Rolovich and his staff will circle a date on their calendars this fall—whenever it is that the Broncos visit Aloha Stadium.

Justin Wilcox has landed on his feet, hasn’t he? The former Boise State defensive coordinator, cut loose from the same post at USC after the Pac-12 championship game loss to Stanford in December, is set to become the new D.C. at Wisconsin. The Badgers have apparently been talking to Wilcox for some time and brought him in January 17 to meet with the defensive staff. Wilcox left Boise State after devising a unique 4-1-6 defense especially for TCU and Andy Dalton in the 2010 Fiesta Bowl, resulting in a 17-10 Bronco victory. Since then, he’s served as defensive coordinator for two seasons at Tennessee, two at Washington, and two with the Trojans.

The Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines is one of the West Coast’s most popular PGA Tour stops, and Graham DeLaet and Tyler Aldridge are both set to tee it up today in La Jolla. Aldridge, back on the big circuit for the first time in seven years, would like to get a kick-start this week. He had a decent fall season, including a 12th-place finish at the Sanderson Farms Championship in early November. But he’s missed the cut in both of his starts in the new year. Aldridge is No. 104 in the FedEx Cup Standings and has earned $146,617. Troy Merritt is sitting out this week.

Carson McMillan has scored 10 goals in 43 games for the Idaho Steelheads this season. But three of them came last night as the Steelheads stopped Rapid City 5-2 in CenturyLink Arena. It was Idaho’s first hat trick of the season. McMillan, the Steelies’ captain, completed his triple with an exclamation point midway through the third period, when he chased a neutral zone touch pass into the offensive end and rifled a wrist shot from the top of the circles. Jack Campbell turned away 25 shots to notch his seventh win in 10 starts. Meanwhile, local fans saw a familiar face in a Rush uniform. Garrett Bembridge, who was a Steelhead in the 2008-09 season, was picked up by Rapid City in a trade in time for last night’s game and contributed an assist. Now the cross-country journey resumes, as the Steelheads begin a three-game series at Atlanta tomorrow night.

If you’re trying to will our first 60-degree day to get here, maybe this will help: it’s time for college baseball. College of Idaho begins with a four-game series today through Sunday against Arizona Christian in Phoenix, as Shawn Humberger begins his 16th season as head coach and 29th overall at C of I. The Coyotes profess to be hungry after finishing 33-26 last year, although they do have to replace their entire starting rotation this season.

Back to hoops: a one-sided series resumes tonight when Idaho hosts Sacramento State in Cowan Spectrum. The Vandals hold a 15-2 all-time advantage over the Hornets, although the two teams split last year. Idaho, now 12-8 overall, is in sole possession of fourth place in the 12-team Big Sky at 4-3. The key for the Vandals is muddling through without their top two scorers, Victor Sanders and Perrion Callandret. Sanders is out 3-7 weeks with a broken hand, and Callandret is listed day-to-day with a sprained foot. And the Boise State women cruised past UNLV 75-56 last night in Taco Bell Arena. Brooke Pahuloa led the Broncos with 20 points.

This Day In Sports…January 28, 1984:

Wayne Gretzky of the Edmonton Oilers sees his record-setting 51-game point-scoring streak come to an end, as the visiting Los Angeles Kings not only ice “the Great One” but win the contest, 4-2. During the streak, Gretzky amassed an amazing 61 goals, 92 assists, and 153 points. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em? It was four years later that the Oilers would shake up the province of Alberta by trading Gretzky to the Kings.

(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.)