Before I get to that headline, another big day in Bengal athletics tomorrow, with the women and the men hosting two very good teams in the former WNIT champion Wyoming and the men hosting 5-1 Utah, who just rolled past Oregon 95-81 and have won five straight. They just might be better than BYU, and ISU apparently held up pretty well to the Cougars after they just crushed Weber State the other day in Ogden 92-62.
Fans can get buy-one-get-one-free tickets for either game by bringing a canned food item to the ticket office to help the Idaho Food Bank, which is just a tremendous deal for the fans...
In doing a little research for the Utah game (the game notes are here), ISU's non-conference opponents are a ridiculous 59-20, and none of them are under .500 right now (Nevada, who tied for the WAC title last year, is the worst at 3-3). That's just insane, and ISU is in a four-game stretch of games in which the four opponents are 24-3.
Basically, folks have to chill lout when the doom and ggloom speak comes around about this basketball team...they really aren't on a level playing field (I mean Boise State is 5-1 and we took them to two overtimes, Long Beach has won four straight, including a win over an NCAA Tournament team, and Hawai'i has beated a Big 10 team too). ISU will be just fine in conference play...coach O'Brien has certainly proved that over the past two seasons.
My Brother the Hero OK, just a little family bragging...while I have this extremely important job (tongue firmly in cheek) I know where our bread is buttered. If you notice, I avoid using words like courageous, heroic, and things like that, because it doesn't sit well with me....people put their lives on the line every day...they are heroic and courageous. Well, I got this link from my little brother this morning (you have to go there, and hit the "click here for more info" link under News and Accomplishments). I always knew he was a little different (I'm a goalie...we are all different in my family), but the dude single-handedly stopped an armed robbery...not to shabby. Here is the text for those who can't figure it out...
"On 11/30/08 at approximately 11:20 am, while on his way to investigate a car horn sounding on the west side of JC Penney, Officer J. Mercogliano heard a woman screaming for help. He contacted the woman and her 12 year old daughter and was told that two male suspects had just attempted to rob them at gunpoint. Officer Mercogliano then saw a tan Ford SUV fleeing the area. Officer Mercogliano alerted other units and he then stopped the vehicle and detained the suspects until other officers could arrive. The suspects were taken into custody and a .40 caliber Glock handgun was recovered from the waistband of one of the suspects. Also recovered were masks, burglary tools and items of property that are believed to be stolen. The suspects were charged with armed robbery and several other charges and transported to BSO Jail for detention."
That's the kid we used to tease as a kid, and make fun of all the time. Nice job there Joseph (I just can't call him Joe....)
Told you she would win.... Matt and Chelsey apparently were down to two names for their new baby....Matt had a name he wanted, Chelsey had one she wanted. The baby is named Colton, which was Chelsey's pick, making Matt a very smart man in my book.
Second-year Utah Coach Jim Boylen has apparently put the "run" back in the Runnin' Utes. Utah put up 95 points on the Oregon Ducks last night in the Huntsman Center, and afterward Boylen felt so frisky he picked up the microphone, thanked the fans for attending, and said something along the lines of, "this schedule is for you." I wonder if Joe O'Brien will feel tempted to make the same comments after the Utes come to Holt Arena on Saturday night?
Remember how quickly BYU pushed the ball up the floor against the Bengals last weekend? Remember how well the Cougars shot the ball, in particular the three-pointer? Well, Utah may be as good in both of those departments. And, unlike BYU, which has a huge ? in the middle, the Utes feature 7-2 Aussie center Luke Nevill (above), who is averaging almost 18 points a game while hitting 67 percent of his shots.
Utah is shooting the ball better from the field than BYU was prior to the Cougars' arrival (Utah-52 percent, BYU 51), and the Utes are hitting 42 percent of their three-point attempts. Four Utes average in double figures, and five are hitting at least 42 percent of their three-point attempts. (Compare that to the cold-shooting Bengals, who have only Donnie Carson --3 for 5 for 60 percent and Matt Stucki, 7-17, 41 percent, shooting the three-ball with any accuracy.)
Boylen felt some heat when the Utes lost their season-opener to Southwest Baptist this year, but they quickly recovered with home wins over Wisconsin-Green Bay and Oregon, and road victories at Mississippi, Morgan State and Missouri State.
The Bengals, meanwhile, are still licking their wounds from their awful offensive performance at Washington State earlier this week, and looking forward to getting Stucki back after his wife Chelsey gave birth to their first child on Wednesday. (See Frank's entry below). That's kind of the way this season has gone for Idaho State so far -- Stucki played his best game of the year against BYU on Saturday, then had to miss the Wazzu contest while awaiting the blessed event.
We all knew this schedule the Bengals have signed up to is an absolute killer, and it has lived up to that and more. As difficult as it is for ISU fans not to lose heart, it is essential that the team members themselves continue to compete and bring some energy to the arena as they run this gauntlet. That's easier said than done, I know, but at least the large crowd and the antics of some of the BYU players kept the energy level high last weekend. Here's hoping the Utes inspire the same spunk on Saturday.
Cradle of Coaches
It may have been hard to believe back then, but Idaho State apparently had some pretty good assistant football coaches on staff from 1988 to 1993. The team was only 14-50-1 during that timeframe, but enjoyed the services of Kyle Whittingham (1988-1993), Dave Christensen (1990-1991) and Gary Anderson (1992-1994) as assistants to Garth Hall and Brian McNeeley. Whittingham, of course, is the highly successful head coach at Utah, where he is about to lead the Utes to the Sugar Bowl in the Bowl Championship Series. Christensen, the offensive coordinator of Missouri's high-octane spread offense, was named new head coach at Wyoming this week. And Anderson, who has been Whittingham's very successful defensive coordinator at Utah, will move up the road a ways to Logan to take over the struggling Utah State program, it was announced today.
Former ISU Coach Larry Lewis also had a number of assistants on his first staff that have gone on to higher profile jobs in the Division 1 ranks, landing jobs at Maryland, USC, Washington State, and Cal, among others. It may say something about the institutional barriers that exist at Idaho State that such coaching talent has come through Pocatello over the years with only sporadic success to show for it.
And thanks for being a Bengal fan -- it ain't always easy, but it's always fun.
A quick update...Matt Stucki will be on the court on Saturday night against Utah, as he and his wife Chelsey welcomed a new son into the world on Wednesday afternoon around 2 o'clock or so pm. The baby to be named later (they are down to two, one his choice, one hers...guess who is gonna win that one...) was 7 lbs, 13 oz, and 21 inches and healthy.
Matt by the way approved this message, and I'll throw this out...any fans want to get Matt and Chelsey a congratulatory message can send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, and in the subject line put the word CONGRATULATIONS! in it, and I'll print them all out and give them to Matt after practice this week. Send away!
The Bengals have hit the court here in Pullman, Washington, after another small airline delay (smog in San Diego, where our flight originated from), so the Bengals arrived in Pullman and instead of going to the hotel, they hit the court at 7:05 pm for their 7:00 pm practice, so it was about 20 minutes of getting loose with the basketball, and stretching with Lucas Steijn leading the way.
And yes, if Lucas is leading the stretches, that means ISU is down one senior as Matt Stucki stayed back to just in case his wife Chelsea goes into labor. If she doesn't, the plan is to induce labor on Thursday, so Matt will be back this Saturday against Utah and then make the Wisconsin trip. By the way, Wisconsin just about blew it tonight, but they held on with a basket with 0.9 left. Seriously, Virginia Tech scored 12 points in 50 seconds at the end to tie it before the final shot....yikes.
Back to BYU Now, the Cougars coming to Holt was a big deal, but I didn't think anything I wrote would make the Salt Lake Tribune, but there it was on Saturday. Perhaps it wouldn't be a big deal if they drove 3 1/2 hours north for a game more than twice every 56 years, but hey, what do I know.
Former Bengal Assistant to Lead the Cowboys... The Wyoming Cowboys that is, as Dave Christiansen, who was an offensive assistant for the Bengals in 1990 and 1991 and has been Missouri's Offensive Coordinator was named the head coach by A.D. Tom Burman.
They're Back.... That would be the women's team, which, after SEVEN STRAIGHT ROAD GAMES to start the season, finally see the light of Reed Gym on Wednesday night at 7:00 pm against Montana-Western. The ladies lost in their last outing to North Dakota State, with Oana Iacovita earning all-tournament honors.
As I was watching the college basketball highlight show Sunday night and saw that Arizona State's James Hardin put up 40 points on UTEP, it occurred to me that Idaho State's non-conference opponents could put together a fairly representative All-American team. So I did some research to come up with the best players the Bengals will face during their brutal non-conference death march. Here's my list:
James Harden, 6-4 G, Arizona State
The powerful, 220-pounder (above) was averaging 24.4 points a game before his outburst against the Miners, as well as 6.6 rebounds and 4 assists. The Bengals will get an up-close look at the future NBA first-round draft pick on Dec. 23 in Tempe.
Lee Cummard, 6-7 SF, BYU
Cummard didn't have a great game against Idaho State Saturday night, but still posted 17 points. The defending co-MWC Player of the Year, Cummard is averaging 19.4 points and 7.6 rebounds a game, while shooting 65 percent from the floor. When I interviewed former BYU and Jazz player Andy Toolsen on the pre-game show Saturday night, he said he thinks Cummard is good enough to be a lottery pick in the NBA draft. I'm not sure I agree with that assessment, but he'll definitely get a chance to mke an NBA roster when his time comes.
Luke Babbitt,6-9, 220 pound PF, Nevada
One of only three Nevadans to be selected a McDonalds All-American, Babbitt turned down more prestigious programs to play for his hometown Wolfpack. He is averaging 15.8 points and 8.2 rebounds as a freshman. Nevada, which is off to a disappointing start, hosts the Bengals Dec. 27.
Gary Wilkinson, 6-9, 240 F, Utah State
The pre-season WAC Player of the Year, Wilkinson is averaging 18.5 points and 8.8 rebounds a game, while hitting 77 percent of his field goal attempts. The Aggies will be in Holt Arena Dec. 20.
Luke Nevill, 7-2, 265, C, Utah
An All-MWC 2nd Team selection last year, the Aussie center is scoring 17.4 points and grabbing 9.6 rebounds a game this year, while making 66 percent of his field attempts. The Utes visit Holt on Saturday.
Marcus Landry, 6-7, 230,F, Wisconsin
The defending Most Outstanding Player in the Big 10 tournament last year, Landry is averaging 12.5 points and 4.7 rebounds, and has 15 blocks for the Badgers this year. ISU travels to Madison Dec. 9.
Jonathan Tavernari, 6-6, 215, F, BYU
The gliding lefthander from Brazil put on a show against the Bengals Saturday night, slinking through the lane for 23 points. (He also succeeded in joining Cummard as the two most disliked visiting players in Holt). Tavernari is averaging almost 16 points and 7.5 rebounds a game.
Donovan Morris, 6-1 G, Long Beach State
The defending Big West leading scorer, he snoozed through regulation and the first overtime against the Bengals, then put up 14 points in the second OT to clinch the game. A master at getting to the free line, he nailed 25 free throws in 27 attempts against the Bengals, averaging 23.5 points in their two meetings this year and last.
Trevon Hughes, 6-0, G, Wisconsin
Hughes is averaging 14 points a game for the Badgers. He was fourth in the Big 10 in steals last year with 62, and hit 52 three-pointers.
Tai Wesley, 6-7, 240, F, Utah State
A second team pre-season All-WAC choice, Wesley is one of those all-around stat stuffers for the Aggies -- he's shooting 74 percent from the field, averages 6.8 rebounds, and has 19 assists to just 6 turnovers, while averaging 13 points a game. He and Wilkinson will be a load for the Bengals' front line players.
Jacob Pullen, 6-0 G, Kansas State
The sophomore from famed Proviso East High School near Chicago started as a true freshman last year. He's averaging 16.6 points a game this season for the Wildcats, who will host Idaho State on Jan. 3.
Jeff Pendergraph, 6-9, 220, F, Arizona State
While he's overshadowed by Hardin's exploits, Pendergraph is a steady contributor for the Sun Devils, averaging 13 pointsand 6.6 rebounds while making 79 percent of his field goals.
Aaron Baynes, 6-10, C, Washington State
Baynes had 7 points and 8 rebounds against the Bengals in Holt last year. He's averaging 11 points and 6 rebounds a game while making 66 percent of his shots for the Cougars, who host ISU on Tuesday night.
And thanks for being a Bengal fan, it ain't always easy, but it's always fun.