Those who can figure out this Boise State men’s basketball season are smarter than most. Those who can figure out this Boise State men’s basketball season are smarter than most. Last night on Sunday Sports Extra I ran down the Broncos’ basic stats from last year’s Mountain West season versus this year’s. The offensive numbers don’t shed much light on what ails the team. It’s scoring a lot more points in conference games, 77.9 per game versus 68.8 a year ago. But how about this? When you round off the shooting percentages for each league season, you get 45-45 from the field, 33-33 from three-point range, and 72-72 from the free throw line. Of course, this doesn’t separate what’s been happening in, say, the last six minutes of a game.
But then there’s defense. You don’t have to drill down much there. Boise State is allowing 15 more points per game in Mountain West play than it did last year (73.2 points versus 57.8). League opponents are shooting 46 percent from the field against the Broncos after managing just 42 last season, and three-point shooting has zoomed up to 38 percent from 30. And another tell-tale number: the almighty boards. Boise State had a plus-3.0 rebounding margin in conference action last year. This year it’s even. Tomorrow night the Broncos host a team that’s been equally inconsistent this season, UNLV.
Boise State was able to jump into a tie for fourth in the Mountain West during its Saturday bye. New Mexico was the latest victim of Clune Arena craziness, falling 76-72 at Air Force. That allowed Fresno State to move into a tie for second with the Lobos after its 75-68 win over Utah State. Nevada fell back into the fourth-place tie with the Broncos after its 102-91 overtime loss at UNLV. The Wolf Pack and BSU are one game out of second now—and 1½ games ahead of the sixth-place Rebels.
Boise State’s rise to football prominence in the new century allowed it to improve its staff infrastructure—to the point that it not only has graduate assistants on both sides of the ball, but also a director and assistant director of player personnel, a football operations coordinator, a director of football operations and an assistant athletic director for football. And one of them has been discovered by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Antoine Murray, the assistant director of player personnel who has doubled as recruiting coordinator, has been hired by the Bucs scouting department. Murray will be reasonably close to his hometown of Lakeland, FL, but that’s not to say he didn’t adapt to Boise—in his playing days or as a staffer. He was a central part of the Broncos’ recruiting operation. This is a heck of an opportunity for him.
The Northern Trust Open was certainly the tonic for Troy Merritt, yesterday’s one-over 72 in the final round notwithstanding. Merritt finished in a tie for 11th at Riviera Country Club and earned $144,160, his biggest payday since making more than $1.2 million for his lone PGA Tour win at the Quicken Loans National last August. The former Boise State star also snapped a streak of four straight missed cuts.
Brian Scott started in the No. 35 hole at the Daytona 500 yesterday and finished 24th. That would seem like an achievement, especially after the Boise driver wrecked his car in Thursday night’s Can-Am Duel 1. But a tweet following the race shows how determined Scott is in his first full season in the Sprint Cup Series “Proud of my team for countless hours of hard work! P24 is not what we wanted, but we learned a lot to get better for the next superspeedway.” It was Scott’s second Daytona 500—he finished 25th in his debut in 2014.
You could hear the sigh of relief all the way from Kansas last night. The Idaho Steelheads salvaged a split of their two games against the Wichita Thunder, the team with the worst record in the ECHL, when Carson McMillan scored almost four minutes into overtime for a 5-4 victory. The Steelheads had blown a 4-1 third period lead, and McMillan’s goal was a face-saver (and earned him his second hat trick of the season). Coach Neil Graham gave goaltender Branden Komm a rare start, and he survived, recording 39 saves. The Steelies had let a 2-1 lead slip away with 19 seconds left in regulation Saturday night, eventually falling 3-2 in OT. Idaho plays at Tulsa tomorrow night.
The Idaho Stampede recorded a split at CenturyLink Arena over the weekend, falling to Grand Rapids Friday night and beating Rio Grande Valley Saturday night. In the latter, the Stampede rallied from an eight-point deficit at the start of the fourth quarter and won going away, 102-92. Roster news was the sub-header the past few days for the Stampede, as Bryce Dejean-Jones was signed for the rest of the season by the New Orleans Pelicans after fulfilling two 10-day contracts, and Phil Pressey earned a 10-day deal with the Phoenix Suns. Meanwhile, Pierre Jackson has disappeared from the Stampede roster. The former College of Southern Idaho and Baylor star played eight games in this stint with Idaho, averaging 9.1 points per game.
Idaho stubbed its toe in the race for a first round bye in the Big Sky Tournament, falling 68-65 at Sacramento State Saturday night. That ended a three-game winning streak for the Vandals, who are still in fifth place in conference standings at 9-6. In fourth at 9-5 is Idaho State, who downed Southern Utah 89-71 Saturday night behind Ethan Telfair’s 31 points. Also, College of Idaho ended its regular season by stifling Walla Walla, 57-43. The Coyotes will open the Cascade Conference Tournament against Oregon Tech Wednesday night in Caldwell.
One of the greatest high school careers—any sport, either gender—in Idaho history ended Saturday night. Destiny Slocum, one of the top women’s basketball recruits in the country who has signed with Maryland, led Mountain View to its second straight girls 5A state championship in a 62-50 win over Centennial. Slocum set a state tournament scoring record with 85 points over the three days. Next winter we’ll be following her as a Terrapin.
Idahoans are extremely rare in Sports Illustrated’s Faces In The Crowd feature. Years and years can go by without one. The last Idaho athlete to appear was Weiser High soccer star Lauren Bouvia, who was mentioned last November after she scored three goals in the Wolverines’ state 3A championship game victory. That extended her national single-season goal-scoring record to 127. There’s already another now, kind of. Allie Ostrander isn’t from Idaho, but six months into her college career at Boise State, she’s already amassed a lot of national notoriety. The true freshman from Kenai, AK, gets an SI Faces In The Crowd nod this week, feted for her recent win in the first 5,000-meter race she ever ran on a track at the Husky Classic in Seattle, the third-fastest 5,000 recorded on an oversized track in women’s collegiate history.
More weekend wrap: the Boise State women’s gymnastics team eased past Ohio State Friday night in Taco Bell Arena to improve to 8-0. The ninth-ranked Broncos were led by Krystine Jacobsen’s school record on bars at 9.975. Boise State took the lead Friday night at the Mountain West Swimming & Diving Championships in College Station, TX, but the Broncos were edged out Saturday night for the title, 664-651 by Nevada. And the College of Idaho men’s skiing team won the USCSA Western Regional Championship for the first time in 25 years with a victory in the slalom Saturday in Red Lodge, MT. The Coyote women finished second. Both C of I squads will now head to the USCSA National Championships next month in Lake Placid, NY.
This Day In Sports…February 22, 2001, 15 years ago today:
After 5½ seasons with the New York Knicks, former Boise State star Chris Childs is traded, along with a first round draft pick, to the Toronto Raptors for Mark Jackson and Mugsy Bogues. Throughout his tenure with the Knicks, Childs had shared playing time with former Heisman Trophy winner Charlie Ward and—in the minds of many—had never generated the numbers expected of his six-year, $24 million contract.
(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.)