Justinian Jessup’s first college finals weren’t as bad as he thought they might be. Having a little extra time to study probably didn’t hurt.
The true freshman guard and the rest of the Boise State men’s basketball team spent much of their first month of the season traveling, including a 10-day stretch when the team played five games. The Broncos were scheduled to play Portland on Dec. 10, but the game was canceled due to unsafe flight conditions in the Portland area.
So between its Dec. 5 visit to Loyola Marymount and Sunday’s home matchup with Idaho State, Boise State had 12 straight days without a game. The Broncos rested, scrimmaged, and focused on finals.
“It actually wasn’t too bad,” Jessup said. “If you just manage your time and take care of it, you’re good.”
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Sunday will be the 93rd meeting between Boise State (5-4) and Idaho State (2-8), with BSU leading the series 51-41. ISU is BSU’s most common opponent ever, but the teams haven’t met since 2011.
While head coach Leon Rice would have liked his team to have played the Pilots last weekend, he feels his team was able to grow just as much in practice over the last two weeks as they would have in games. The extra rest on top of that added to the perks.
“We did a lot of scrimmage situations that we really needed,” Rice said. “This is a team that practices pretty (well). We don’t necessarily have to have a ton of games to get better. You can get better at practice. And I think we’ve accomplished that.”
Idaho State doesn’t sport an outstanding record but will provide a solid challenge, according to Rice. The Bengals are led by senior point guard Ethan Telfair, the brother of former NBA player Sebastian Telfair. Telfair, who recently served a three-game suspension, leads ISU with 16.8 points and 5.8 assists per game. He was a first-team All-Big Sky selection last season after averaging 20.2 points per game and had a triple-double against New Mexico (25 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists) on Nov. 11.
“Boy, he can get into creases and crevices, and he can score in a lot of different ways. He’s kind of the straw that stirs the drink,” Rice said. “When you have a dynamic point guard like that, he can create tons of problems.”
Part of the challenge of defending Telfair might fall on Jessup’s shoulders because of his length. Without games over the past couple weeks, Jessup has taken the time to watch film and work on his defense.
“The biggest thing I need to work on is my defense, positioning-wise. That’s always tough,” Jessup said. “It’s such an attention-to-detail aspect of the game. That’s probably the biggest thing that we’ve been looking at.”
Boise State’s game against Idaho State tips-off at 4:30 p.m. at Taco Bell Arena. It is part of a double-header with the women’s team, who plays Portland at 2 p.m. Fans who buy tickets to the women’s game before halftime get free admission into the men’s game.
AROUND THE STATE
The Vandals (4-5) beat Corban 90-67 in their opener but are 3-5 since, including losses at Washington State (61-48) and South Dakota State (80-77). Idaho was picked second and third in the preseason Big Sky coaches and media polls, respectively.
Idaho is led by junior guard Victor Sanders, who averages 17.2 points per game and shoots 41 percent from 3-point range. The Vandals are 301st among 351 Division I teams in scoring (67.1 ppg).
Idaho begins Big Sky play Dec. 30 at home against Eastern Washington.
Idaho State (2-8) was picked fifth in both Big Sky preseason polls. The Bengals lost their first six games of the season by an average of 16.7 points before beating Lamar on Nov. 29.
Ethan Telfair leads Idaho State in scoring with 16.8 points per game. He was suspended for three games earlier in the season.
The Bengals open Big Sky play at Montana on Dec. 29.
COLLEGE OF SOUTHERN IDAHO
Despite losing every single scorer from last season’s team, CSI head coach Jared Phay and his new squad haven’t missed a beat.
The young Golden Eagles (12-1) lost their first game of the 2016-17 season to Western Nebraska 82-78. Since then, No. 11 CSI has won 12 straight games by averaging nearly 114 points per game. Their overall average of 111.2 ppg ranks third in the NJCAA. After missing the national tournament in 2015-16, Phay’s group is poised to make a run at the program’s fourth national championship.
“I like our team a lot,” Phay said. “Although we have an entirely new group, I feel like they have come together nicely. I feel like they are very unselfish and they compete, which is all as a coach you can ask for.”
Five different players are averaging at least 10 points per game, led by Charles Jones Jr (15.2). Boise State signee Casdon Jardine has started all 13 games and is averaging 7.8 points and 5.5 rebounds per game.
The Golden Eagles play in a deep Scenic West Athletic Conference that includes reigning national champion Salt Lake (10-0, No. 5) and Snow College (10-1).
“Salt Lake is very good,” Phay said. “I think we will see two contrasting styles of play. We will want play fast, and they may want to slow it down, so it will be very interesting. But talent-wise, I think we’re very similar.”
CSI opens SWAC play at home on Jan. 3 against Colorado Northwestern.
Boise State (5-4) vs. Idaho State (2-8)
▪ When: 4:30 p.m. Sunday
▪ Where: Taco Bell Arena (12,480), Boise
▪ Radio: KBOI 670 AM (Bob Behler and Abe Jackson). Fans can also listen to the game at BroncoSports.com
▪ Broadcast: The game will be streamed live online on the Mountain West Network and on Twitter. The link to the stream will be available at @BroncoSportsMBB.
▪ All-time series: Boise State leads, 51-41
Presnell goes for win No. 600 Sunday
The Boise State women’s basketball team takes the floor against Portland on Sunday, marking the first game for the Broncos since their first loss of the season at Washington last weekend.
The Broncos (8-1) have a chance to clinch head coach Gordy Presnell’s 600th career win at home against the Pilots or on Tuesday against Hawaii.
Boise State’s matchup on Sunday is part of a double-header with the men’s team. The women’s team tips-off at 2 p.m. while the men are scheduled to start at 4:30 p.m. Fans who get to the women’s game before halftime get a ticket for $6 that gets them into the men’s game as well.