Perhaps it’s coincidence, but Boise State freshman Alex Hobbs’ parents seem to be lucky.
The Texas native has scored in double-digits twice this season, notching 11 points in the season opener against Northwest and a career-high 16 points Saturday against San Jose State. On both occasions, Hobbs’ parents were in the crowd at Taco Bell Arena.
Fellow freshman Justinian Jessup added 14 points, leading the Broncos to an 85-78 victory over the Spartans. The win ensures Boise State (18-9, 11-5) of a top-five finish in the Mountain West regular season standings and a first-round bye in next month’s Mountain West Tournament in Las Vegas.
“Like every other game, I just try to come out aggressive. I was just hot early and just kind of rolled with it. I guess they’re like a good luck charm or something,” said Hobbs, who has played at least 14 minutes in seven of the past 10 games.
The Broncos’ 18th win of the season means head coach Leon Rice will receive a one-year extension through 2021-22, worth approximately $733,709. This is the third straight year Rice has received the extension for 18 wins, which is part of the contract he signed before the 2014-15 season.
“I’m so grateful to be able to coach these guys at Boise State and be the caretaker of this program. Hopefully they’re not ready to run me out of town yet,’’ said Rice, who is 140-84 in seven seasons
The Spartans (14-13, 7-9) rallied late, scoring eight straight and cutting a 16-point Bronco lead to four with 35 seconds remaining. Free throws from sophomore Paris Austin and senior James Reid sealed the deal for Boise State, which remains one game behind Nevada (23-6, 12-4) for the conference lead with two games left.
Austin scored 14 of his game-high 18 points in the second half, shooting 6-of-8 from the free-throw line. Junior Chandler Hutchison scored 11 points, with eight after halftime.
Boise State outshot San Jose State 47.5 percent to 38.6 despite not hitting a 3-pointer in the second half. Nine of the 10 Broncos who saw action scored.
“Sometimes that’s the best coaching you can do. Find the guy who’s going to play hardest,” Rice said. “With a long season, maybe sometimes you get some guys who surprise you.”
Jessup came off the bench for the first time Wednesday at Nevada, and had five total points in the past three games. He started again Saturday, scored 10 second-half points and earned his third double-digit-scoring game of 2017 after tallying nine such games before Jan. 1.
“I deserved to be benched. I wasn’t playing very well,” Jessup said. “Coach Rice told me just make the simple plays and go back to what you were doing the first half of the season.”
Hobbs had nine first-half points and helped give the Broncos a 37-28 halftime lead. He was 6-of-8 from the field and also had five rebounds in 18 minutes.
“Everything that I’ve gone through, all the work, is starting to come through for me,” Hobbs said. “You see ‘freshman,’ but now we have some minutes under our belt.”
Boise State hosts Fresno State at 8 p.m. Tuesday in its home finale. Nick Duncan and Reid will be honored on Senior Day.
Boise State women win 20th game
Shalen Shaw scored a season-high 26 points and grabbed nine rebounds to lead Boise State (20-7, 10-6) to a 69-61 victory at San Jose Jose State (10-18, 7-9) on Saturday afternoon.
Boise State, which led 59-42 after three quarters, secured its fifth consecutive victory and seventh 20-win season in program history. The Boise State women and men (18-9 this season, with at least three games remaining) have shared 20-win seasons only twice in school history (2007-08 and 2014-15).
Marijke Vanderschaaf added 10 points and a career-high 16 rebounds for the Broncos, while Yaiza Rodriguez chipped in 16 points and seven assists.
The Broncos play at Fresno State on Tuesday and host Air Force on Friday to close out the regular season. The Mountain West Tournament starts March 6 in Las Vegas, with the top five teams getting a first-round bye (BSU sits in fourth place).