Lethargy turned into unbridled energy midway through the first half Thursday night, and Boise State went on to pick up a sorely-needed 78-66 win over UNLV in ExtraMile Arena. The Broncos turned a six-point deficit into a 15-point lead with a 29-8 run and were not threatened after that. It was a little bit of everything for Boise State, especially in the shooting department, as the Broncos hit 50 percent from the field and 40 percent from three-point range. And hey, they made their free throws. It took longer than we thought, but with his 213th career victory, Leon Rice has matched Bobby Dye as the winningest coach in Boise State history. At the same time, the Broncos improved to 11-3 in Mountain West play and are tied with Colorado State for second place, a half-game behind Utah State.
My Scott Slant column headline last Friday was: “A 100 percent Akot is a big help.” That was after Emmanuel Akot, who had been hampered by a tender Achilles, had scored just six points in his previous three games. Akot is making me look prophetic. In the three games since, he has scored a combined 48 points, and Thursday night he led the Broncos with 16 against UNLV. Akot also had five rebounds, three assists and two steals. The Arizona transfer has his mojo back. Now, Akot and the Broncos face another must-win game Saturday night if they’re to keep their ultimate goal in sight. And they have to keep track of Rebels star Bryce Hamilton, who made believers of Boise State. The Broncos held him two points in the first half. Then Hamilton poured in 24 after the break.
BATES & THE BIG BOARDS
ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. has unveiled his second list of position rankings in advance of the NFL Draft, and his first since the Senior Bowl. John Bates’ week in Mobile, AL, certainly benefitted him, as Kiper has the former Boise State standout ranked No. 7 among prospects at tight end. Bates wasn’t even in Kiper’s top 10 in mid-December. However, he didn’t get enough of a bump to be considered draftable by ProFootballNetwork.com’s Tony Pauline. Bates is rated No. 313 on Pauline’s post-Senior Bowl big board. There’s just not enough of a book on Bates, who wasn’t consistently utilized in the Broncos offense. He averaged 12.3 yards on his 47 career catches, but he scored only two touchdowns.
FOOTBALL FEVER IN MOSCOW
Idaho is now two weeks away from its abbreviated football season, and the buzz up north is louder since the Vandals were No. 24 in Athlon Sports’ preseason FCS rankings this week. The fact that 29 of the 127 teams in the FCS have opted out this spring helps, but this is still major progress for a team that has gone 9-14 since returning to the Big Sky. Many think defense has the Vandals glued together, as their front seven returns intact, led by linebackers Christian Elliss, Charles Akanno and Tre Walker. The trio logged a combined 286 tackles and 35 tackles-for-loss in 2019.
MERRITT SEEKS A WEEKEND SLOT
Troy Merritt is in position to make the cut today—if he puts up a solid second round at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. The Meridian resident and former Boise State star carded a one-under 71 at Spyglass Hill on Thursday. The math was simple for Merritt: four birdies and three bogeys. It wasn’t a bad day on the Monterey Peninsula, with light winds and temps around 55. Merritt will play Pebble Beach today, with the wind expected to pick up significantly.
180-DEGREE FLIP FOR THE BRONCO WOMEN
Everything went the Boise State women’s way Wednesday in Las Vegas, featuring the school-record 40-point game by Jade Loville. The script didn’t hold 24 hours later, as the Broncos were a turnover machine early in a 74-62 loss at UNLV. They were turning the ball over an average of once per minute—spread among eight different players—over the first 16 minutes of the game and had 22 for the day. Loville missed her first five shots over that stretch, although she did settle down to score 14 points. Boise State wasted a great effort by Mallory McGwire: 19 points and 20 rebounds in just 28 minutes. On the men’s side Thursday night, it was the Battle of the Domes in Holt Arena, and Idaho State pummeled Idaho 69-43. The loss makes the reeling Vandals 0-16 on the season.
DO THE YOTES GET TO PLAY?
Nothing’s certain until tipoff, but it looks like College of Idaho men’s hoops is actually going to take the court for games against Multnomah tonight and Saturday night. It’s well-documented that the Coyotes have played just two games since January 7. Multnomah has played one game all season. The Yotes are playing baseball. It’s a very odd four-game series against Eastern Oregon spread over six days. Due to the chance of snow over the weekend in the Treasure Valley, the Coyotes and the Mounties moved Saturday’s doubleheader to Thursday—and that one’s already done. It was a C of I sweep. Sunday’s twin bill has been pushed back to Tuesday. This is the first time the schools have met in 15 years, since EOU eliminated its program. Thursday’s games were Eastern Oregon’s first since 2006.
This Day In Sports…brought to you by ZAMZOWS…Nobody Knows Like Zamzows!
February 12, 2014: Kaitlyn Farrington, who grew up on a ranch near Bellevue and cut her snowboarding teeth at Sun Valley, wins the gold medal in the women’s halfpipe at the Winter Olympics in Sochi. Farrington laid down a spectacular final run to edge defending gold medalist Torah Bright and former gold medalists Kelly Clark and Hannah Teter. It was the first Winter Games gold for an Idahoan since Picabo Street took the super-G in Nagano in 1998. The only other gold medalists with Idaho ties were Boise’s Bill Johnson in the downhill in 1984 and Sun Valley’s Gretchen Fraser in the women’s slalom in 1948.
(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.)