Jake Ness unusual college career took another twist Wednesday night, when the Boise State walk-on forward played a career-high 17 minutes as the shorthanded Broncos knocked off previously undefeated Wyoming in Laramie.
Ness didnt score. He didnt even take a shot.
But the 6-foot-8, 214-pounder played solid defense against Wyoming standout Leonard Washington, grabbed two rebounds and bailed out a Bronco team in desperate need of size in their Mountain West opener.
Boise State (13-2, 1-0 MW) played without suspended post players Kenny Buckner and Darrious Hamilton. Starting center Ryan Watkins picked up two first-half fouls and two more in the first four minutes of the second half.
Jake Ness did a terrific job. Hes never been in that situation before. He battles our guys every day in practice, but hes never been in that, Boise State coach Leon Rice said. We spent hours and hours just trying to design things we could do when he was in the game so he could do it because he spends all his time on the scout team. Credit to him. Thats tough duty.
Washington had 12 points five in the final 1 minute, 40 seconds and four rebounds in Boise States 63-61 win. He entered the game averaging 15.1 points and 8.8 rebounds per game.
Ness found out Tuesday that the Broncos would be without the suspended players and that he might have to play additional minutes. He said the toughest part was getting timing down with the starting unit, particularly on inbounds plays.
I thought I did my job, did what I was supposed to do defend. Washington was a great player, so keep him off the boards. We have such great scorers on the team already, it was my job to set screens and board, Ness said.
Ness didnt plan on being a college basketball player. The Billings, Mont., native was considering several schools, including Montana State, as a football player. He played left tackle. But after seeing how two college-football playing uncles struggled to walk, he decided football wasnt the right path.
I wont be able to walk when Im 40, he said.
Ness enrolled in Hargrave Military Academy, a prep school in Virginia, where he continued his basketball career. Boise State assistant coach Dave Wojcik convinced him to come to Boise, nearer to his parents, now in Coeur dAlene. Ness sat out last season under NCAA transfer rules after transferring from North Idaho College.
I absolutely love it in Boise. Its great near the mountains, fishing, said Ness, who often goes with teammate and roommate Joe Hanstad. Just two country boys.
He might be able to include playing time on his list of things to do. Before Wednesdays game, Ness had played just 23 minutes all season, 19 of which came in recent games against NAIA schools Corban (nine minutes) and Walla Walla (10).
I had to step up for the team because we were short some guys, Ness said. I just went in there and did what the team needed. Maybe it will turn into a few more minutes.
In addition to Buckner and Hamilton, the Broncos were without suspended guards Derrick Marks and Mikey Thompson for the Wyoming game.
Rice said Thursday on KTIKs Idaho Sports Talk that he is still considering the status of the suspended players. He will discuss the suspensions with Boise State Athletic Director Mark Coyle and other members of the administration before finalizing the decision.
Weve got a few days to work through some things, said Rice, whose team does not play until Wednesday against New Mexico. It will be resolved.
NOTES: Jeff Elorriaga made 6-of-10 3-point attempts, including the game-winner, in Wednesdays victory against Wyoming. Elorriaga has made 52-of-105 3-point tries this season (49.5 percent). Hes a great shooter. I wish we had him, Wyoming coach Larry Shyatt said. He leads this league (in 3-point shooting) and there is a reason for it. He had to make one at the end and he had to make one quick.
Brian Murphy: 377-6444, Twitter: @MurphsTurph