As Derrick Alston’s feet left the hardwood, the season-long struggles of the Boise State men’s basketball team seemed to float away with him.
The 6-foot-8 redshirt sophomore’s putback dunk was as disgustingly good as the crowd of 5,677 had seen all season at Taco Bell Arena.
Now the Broncos just need to bottle that moment and take it with them to next week’s Mountain West Tournament in Las Vegas.
“I’ve been trying to get a putback dunk for a while, so that was kind of my free one. It came off right and I just made a play,” Alston said. “It was fun, for sure, and it got loud in there, so it was good.”
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Boise State ended a six-game losing streak and closed out its home schedule with an 80-52 victory over Air Force on Saturday. Alston scored a game-leading 22 points, and redshirt senior Zach Haney supplied the perfect script for his own senior night with a career-high 20 points on 8-for-15 shooting (53.3 percent). Fellow senior David Wacker added five points and seven rebounds as the two big men started and shared the court for the first time all season.
“I loved it, man. I loved giving the fans another win, getting them going,” Haney said. “D.A. flying in with some crazy dunks. That really got the Bell rockin’ in there. It was definitely a sendoff the right way.”
Boise State alum Chandler Hutchison, the only first-round NBA Draft pick in program history, flew in to surprise Haney and Wacker for their home finale. The gesture inspired some stellar play from his former teammates.
“It’s pretty neat to play in this program when guys do that for each other,” Boise State coach Leon Rice said. “They know this is the end, and everybody was playing for all the right reasons — for each other.”
With some much-needed momentum at their backs, the No. 8 Broncos (12-19) open the Mountain West Tournament against No. 9 Colorado State (12-19) at noon MT on Wednesday at the Thomas & Mack Center. The two teams split their regular-season meetings, with each team winning on the other’s home floor.
“We’ve been knocked down a lot and we’ve been on the tough end of a lot of close games,” Wacker said. “But really this group, it’s been really incredible to see how well we’ve stuck together. There’s not been anybody blaming anyone. There’s not been anybody giving up.
“We really banded together and always believed that if we’re clicking and we’re playing together, we’re going to have a chance to make a run, and that’s what we still believe.”
Boise State beat Colorado State 70-68 on Jan. 29 in Fort Collins, but the Rams handed the Broncos arguably their worst loss of the season, a lackluster 76-62 setback on Feb. 27. It was the Rams’ first win in Boise since 1991, and Boise State players said in postgame interviews that their performance was “embarrassing.”
The Broncos can redeem themselves Wednesday.
“There’s no team in this conference that we haven’t played competitively and really given ourselves a chance to win,” Wacker said. “I think that gives us a lot of confidence, and knowing that we have nothing to lose. We’ve got everything to gain and we can really be that team with a chip on our shoulder but also with a togetherness and a belief that we can get it done.
“I’m really excited to go with these guys. There’s no other guys I’d want to go to war with and go and try and make this run.”
Note: Junior guard Justinian Jessup made three 3-pointers against the Falcons to push his season total to 85. He now owns the No. 2 and No. 3 marks for most 3-pointers in single-season program history after making 90 in 2017-18. The program record is 92, set by Abe Jackson during the 2001-02 season.
Track: Broncos finish strong at nationals
Boise State’s Allie Ostrander and Alexis Fuller each earned All-American honors at the 2019 NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships on Saturday at the Birmingham Crossplex in Birmingham, Alabama.
Ostrander, a redshirt junior, placed fourth in the women’s 3,000 meters with a time of 9 minutes, 4.76 seconds to collect first-team honors. Fuller capped her senior season with a ninth-place showing in the women’s mile (4:41.19), earning second-team recognition.
BOISE ST. 80, AIR FORCE 52
AIR FORCE (13-17)
Lavelle Scottie 5-15 0-0 10; Caleb Morris 3-4 0-0 9; Ameka Akaya 2-5 4-4 8; LeSean Brown 3-6 0-0 8; Keaton Van Soelen 2-4 0-0 4; Sid Tomes 1-3 0-0 3; Ryan Swan 1-3 0-0 2; Bryce Hughes 0-0 2-2 2; Abe Kinrade 0-2 2-2 2; Pervis Louder 0-2 2-3 2; Zach Couper 1-1 0-0 2; AJ Walker 0-1 0-0 0; Christopher Joyce 0-3 0-0 0; James Edwards 0-0 0-0 0; Isaac Monson 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 18-49 10-11 52.
BOISE ST. (12-19)
Derrick Alston 8-12 2-4 22; Zach Haney 8-15 3-3 20; Justinian Jessup 4-12 0-0 11; Marcus Dickinson 3-7 0-0 8; Alex Hobbs 2-5 2-2 7; David Wacker 2-4 1-2 5; RJ Williams 2-2 0-0 4; Pat Dembley 1-2 0-0 3; Malek Harwell 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 30-59 8-11 80.
Air Force..................... 24 28 — 52
Boise St...................... 45 35 — 80
3-point goals — Air Force 6-22 (Caleb Morris 3-3; LeSean Brown 2-4; Sid Tomes 1-2; Ryan Swan 0-1; Abe Kinrade 0-1; Pervis Louder 0-2; AJ Walker 0-1; Christopher Joyce 0-2; Keaton Van Soelen 0-1; Ameka Akaya 0-1; Lavelle Scottie 0-4), Boise St. 12-31 (Derrick Alston 4-8; Justinian Jessup 3-9; Marcus Dickinson 2-5; Pat Dembley 1-2; Zach Haney 1-3; Alex Hobbs 1-3; David Wacker 0-1). Fouled out — None. Rebounds — Air Force 22 (Lavelle Scottie 4), Boise St. 35 (David Wacker 7; Derrick Alston 7). Assists — Air Force 8 (James Edwards 2; Christopher Joyce 2), Boise St. 18 (Justinian Jessup 7). Total fouls — Air Force 10, Boise St. 13. Technical fouls — None. A — 5,677.