During Boise State’s basketball practice Sunday, junior guard Chandler Hutchison ripped his practice jersey in frustration.
It is the second one he’s ruined this season.
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Priding himself on being extremely competitive, Hutchison was frustrated after shooting 4-of-13 with six turnovers in Thursday’s loss to San Diego State in the Mountain West Tournament. But if he had anything to do with it, Boise State was not going to be one-and-done like that in the National Invitation Tournament.
Two days after shredding his jersey, Hutchison scored a career-high 34 points and played the deciding role in the Broncos’ 73-68 win over Utah at the Huntsman Center on Tuesday night. It is Boise State’s first-ever postseason road win.
The Broncos (20-11) will play at Illinois (19-14) in a second-round game (day/time TBD). The Fighting Illini beat Valparaiso 82-57 on Tuesday.
“Coaches were a little disappointed in me and I was disappointed in myself, and that built up anger. ... That was motivation, leaving that gym, I made up my mind that I wasn’t ready to finish, have that be my last game, the way I performed,” Hutchison said. “I wanted to make an effort to be the best player on the court.”
Hutchison was outstanding from the start for the sixth-seeded Broncos, scoring 16 points in the first half and 18 in the second. He was 14-of-24 from the field with five rebounds. His output was the most in Boise State postseason history, topping Anthony Drmic’s 28 points against La Salle in the 2013 NCAA Tournament.
“I said to (assistant) Phil (Beckner), I said, ‘He’s going to have the game of his career,’” Boise State coach Leon Rice about the Sunday practice.
Rice also felt a calm confidence in his team before the game, and despite trailing most of the game, struggling to shoot from outside, the Broncos still were in striking distance. After Utah (20-12) took a 47-36 lead with 16:31 to play, the largest of the game, the Broncos responded with a 7-0 run.
Hutchison couldn’t do it all himself and picked up a huge boost from freshman guard Marcus Dickinson, who had 10 of his 12 points in the final 11:09 after coming off the bench.
“My job on this team is to be the energy guy,” Dickinson said. “... Chandler carried us a lot in the first half, we were down a little bit in the second half, they were playing off me, so I shot the ball when I needed to.”
Dickinson hit a 3-pointer with 4:55 remaining to tie it up at 61-61, and Hutchison gave the Broncos their first lead since 24-22 with a layup 49 seconds later. The Broncos did not trail again.
“This team, they love to surprise people,” said Rice, who has led Boise State to five straight 20-win seasons. “When their backs are against the wall, when no one thinks they can win, that’s when they’ve been the best.”
The Broncos trailed 37-30 at the half, playing solidly outside of finding little offensive rhythm outside of Hutchison. Utah had 10 assists to Boise State’s two in the first half, while the Broncos did not make a 3-pointer until 15:58 remained in the game, on their 11th long-distance attempt.
Boise State finished 3-of-16 on 3-pointers, a recipe for a loss in the past, but the Broncos had one second-half turnover, while the Utes had eight. Utah was led by Kyle Kuzma’s 21 points and nine rebounds.
“No matter if it was down or up, I think we did a good job keeping our composure,” Dickinson said.
It was the Broncos’ practices that seemed to set up the strong performance. From Hutchison’s emotional Sunday to what Rice called the team’s best practice of the year Monday, good things followed Tuesday.
“Someone in practice or something said we were going to go down swinging, we kind of looked to our left and our right, and said ‘we’re not going down swinging, we’re going to stay up swinging,’” Hutchison said.
NOTES: The Broncos lost their only previous meeting with Illinois, losing 84-77 on the road, Dec. 5, 2009. ... The Broncos are 6-13 all-time in postseason play, and 4-4 all-time in the NIT (including 2-0 against Utah). ... Hutchison has scored 540 points this season (No. 9 on Boise State’s single-season list). ... Coming back from 11 points down matches the largest deficit Boise State has overcome this season (Jan. 7 against San Diego State). ... Justinian Jessup made his 30th start of the season, matching the most starts by a freshman in school history (Steve Shepherd; 1993-94). ... Boise State clinched its fifth straight 20-win season, one of 27 schools nationally to do so. This is the 13th 20-win season since Boise State became a four-year institution and the sixth in Rice’s seven seasons as head coach. ... Former Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore sat in the front row behind the Boise State bench. Moore and his family live in Salt Lake City in the offseason. ... All but four of the Broncos’ points were scored by freshmen, sophomores and juniors.
Illinios cruises past Valparaiso in NIT opener
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. Malcolm Hill scored 25 points, Leron Black had a double-double and Jamall Walker picked up a win in his debut as the interim coach for Illinois, an 82-57 romp over short-handled Valparaiso on Tuesday night.
Hill made 7-of-12 shots, including four 3-pointers, and 7-of-8 free throws and became the fourth player to surpass 1,800 points for the Illini (19-14), who are seeded second in their bracket and are home against Boise State next. The date of the game has not been announced.
Black had 13 points on 6-of-9 shooting and grabbed 12 rebounds.
Walker served as an assistant to head coach John Groce for five seasons until Croce was fired Saturday.
Tevonn Walker had 25 points for Valparaiso (24-9), which reached last year’s NIT title game. The Crusaders were without Horizon League player of the year Alec Peters, the program’s all-time leading scorer and rebounder, who started all 134 games of his career before an injury sidelined him prior to the last regular season game.