What a good news/bad news night it was

So you mean to tell me Boise State shot just 3-for-21 from three-point against the No. 1 team in the Mountain West—on the road in front of a sellout crowd—and only lost by six points? That’s both encouraging and discouraging after the Broncos’ 74-68 loss at Nevada Saturday night. Boise State showed plenty of gumption before the loud throng of 11,164 at Lawlor Events Center. Its defense bothered the Wolf Pack, and steals, eight of ‘em, were a factor in the Broncos’ ability to keep pace. But at some point, those three-pointers had to go in, didn’t they? Only three of them did. Chris Sengfelder hit two of the Broncos’ first three attempts from beyond the arc. And after that, they were just 1-for-18 from deep.

As much as it was a game of runs—the Broncos’ 12-0 barrage at the beginning of the second half and the Wolf Pack’s 7-0 answer shortly thereafter—it was a game of momentum. From that standpoint, one turn came with just under 13 minutes left in the game when, with the score tied, Sengfelder’s breakaway dunk attempt was stuffed by Nevada’s Caleb Martin, and Jordan Caroline nailed a three at the other end seven seconds later. But to its credit, Boise State didn’t let it get away then. In the end, it was the Broncos’ Achilles heel that got ‘em: turnovers. The ultimate momentum switch came with 2½ minutes left, when they blew an inbounds play and Martin turned it into a layup. And Boise State’s last gasp was foiled when the ball went off Alex Hobbs’ knee on a drive with 16 seconds remaining.

You can’t fault Chandler Hutchison for Boise State’s loss. Nevada’s mission was to stop him, and it didn’t happen. In the Wolf Pack’s previous six Mountain West games this season, only once did the opponent’s leading scorer top his season average. Hutchison put up 27 points, and his season average is now 19.9 per game, best in the Mountain West, three-tenths of a point better than Martin. But the Broncos obviously needed a more rounded scoring effort. One example: Zach Haney. He was taller than any Nevada player by four inches. Yet Haney made just one basket and scored three points. So are you all geeked up for the rematch? If you haven’t checked, well, it’s on Valentine’s Day…at 9 p.m. That’s a date night, work night and school night. And late, late, late to boot. So very unfortunate. Take the 15th off.

The Mountain West hit the national spotlight in a very strange and unexpected way Saturday. The federal government shutdown resulted in cancellation, or at least postponement, of the men’s and women’s basketball games between Air Force and Fresno State. Curiously, Army and Navy athletic events proceeded as planned over the weekend, apparently because Army’s and Navy’s programs are “funded differently.” You’d think Air Force would have been able to figure something out, especially since the Bulldogs men’s team was already in Colorado Springs, and the Falcon women were already in Fresno. San Diego Union-Tribune writer Mark Zeigler suggests that Air Force be forced to forfeit every game it doesn’t play, and that the Mountain West reimburse travel expenses incurred by Falcon home opponents for any makeup games, taking the funds out of Air Force’s share of conference revenues.

While much-discussed quarterback recruit Brock Purdy was in Ames, IA, this weekend to check out Iowa State, QB Riley Smith of Jacksonville, FL, was visiting Boise State. With Purdy’s head spinning from all the attention he’s received the past couple of weeks, Smith might be the frontrunner now for the Broncos. Boise State is listed as his favorite at 247sports.com—but we’re still awaiting confirmation of a scholarship offer. Among the ones Smith does have are Rice, Georgia State, Western Kentucky and Yale. He threw for 1,495 yards and 18 touchdowns against seven interceptions this past season. But you can’t put much stock in his numbers, as he split time with Auburn commit Joey Gatewood.

Jay Ajayi is about to become the first British offensive player ever to appear in a Super Bowl after Philadelphia’s 38-7 rout of Minnesota in the NFC Championship Game last night. Ajayi got a lot of airtime on Fox. His first carry went for 13 yards, and his second covered seven. Ajayi had two totes for 25 yards during the Eagles’ mopup drive at the end of the game. Other than that, he was relatively quiet with 14 carries for 28 yards (he totaled 18 for 73). But the former Boise State star set up a field goal at the end of the half with a 13-yard gain on a screen pass, and he executed the toss-back to Nick Foles on the flea-flicker TD to Torrey Smith that essentially put the game away in the third quarter. Ajayi and Philly now get the ultimate challenge—the Patriots in Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis on February 4.

After dropping two games at home last weekend, the Idaho Steelheads won a couple on the road at Tulsa Friday and Saturday. The Steelheads started by rallying from a 2-1 deficit late in the second period for a 4-2 victory over the Oilers—then got two first-period goals from Jefferson Dahl to spur a 4-3 win. Steelies goalie Philippe Desrosiers was between the pipes for both triumphs, improving to 17-4-3 on the season. Idaho launched a combined 93 shots on goal for the weekend and is second in the ECHL with an average of 37 shots per game.

More weekend wrap: the Boise State women’s gymnastics team won its top 10 matchup against Denver Friday night in Taco Bell Arena, scoring a 195.850. The Broncos also defeated Illinois-Chicago and Seattle Pacific. Hard to tell what that’ll mean for them in the rankings, as those are determined by scoring. And the Boise State men’s tennis team began its 2018 campaign yesterday with a 5-0 loss to Northwestern. The Broncos wrap up their season-opening series against No. 17 Michigan at 11:30 this morning on the Boise Racquet & Swim Club courts.

Back to hoops—Idaho won its third straight game Saturday night, holding off Northern Arizona 84-80. The Vandals, now tied for second in the Big Sky, have seen their last six games decided by seven points or less. College of Idaho kicked off its weekend with a pivotal 72-66 win at Northwest Christian. The Beacons had averaged over 100 points a game over their previous five contests. The Coyotes then nipped Corban 73-71 Saturday, solidifying their hold on first place in the Cascade Conference with their sixth win in a row. The Yotes now have a two-game lead in the loss column. Elsewhere, Western Oregon dropped NNU 82-64 Saturday, and the Nevada women made it a Wolf Pack Saturday sweep over Boise State, rallying past the Broncos 72-68.

This Day In Sports…January 22, 2006:

Kobe Bryant scores 81 points, second only in NBA history to Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game in 1962, leading the L.A. Lakers to a 122-104 win over Toronto at Staples Center. The Lakers trailed the Raptors by 18 points early in the third quarter—and Bryant scored 51 points after that in an incredible one-man rally. He was 28-of-46 from the floor, including 7-of-13 from 3-point range, and 18-of-20 from the foul line.

(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.)