Boise State was 18-7 over two seasons with Chandler Hutchison in the starting lineup, but something still wasn’t right earlier this month.
The Broncos needed more from their bench after going into December 3-4, and the sophomore guard fit the bill. His athleticism and versatility meant he could provide whatever the Broncos needed once the starters logged a few minutes.
Hutchison has thrived in his new role in the Broncos’ unbeaten month. They seek a sixth straight win at 7 p.m. Wednesday against UC Davis, concluding their nonconference slate.
“It’s different, obviously, but I felt like I’ve been more in tune to the game coming off the bench and seeing how it’s going, as opposed to jumping right in and it being fast paced,” Hutchison said. “But I kind of like the feel when I’m coming into the game; it’s comfortable right now.”
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Since transitioning to the bench, Hutchison is averaging 9.2 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.0 assists in 21 minutes a game.
Hutchison played what coach Leon Rice called the best game of his career in a Dec. 12 win over then-No. 24 Oregon. He had five of his eight points and a rebound after halftime, and is faring well late in games as opposed to his prior role as a larger early presence.
“It’s a credit to the kind of kid he is. Every kid probably wants to start, but he’s happy with doing this, getting better and being a big part of this team,” Rice said. “He was starting last year, but he’s a bigger part of this team.”
The 6-foot-7 Hutchison can come in at just about any position, so the team isn’t stuck with having to sub a starter for someone at the same position. Rice even envisions Hutchison playing some point guard as his career progresses.
“The longer we have Chandler, the more it’s going to go in that direction,” Rice said.
In addition to seeking a committee approach to replace Mountain West player of the year Derrick Marks, the Broncos had a question about who would step in for do-everything forward Rob Heyer. Rice said he’s starting to see that sort of energy and the ability to contribute in multiple categories in Hutchison, the team’s utility infielder, to borrow a baseball term.
“I’ve just tried to be more consistent. That’s big. ... I realized spots I can be more consistent, and that’s effort,” Hutchison said. “I just try to fill in for any guy I’m coming in for, kind of mix up what the defense has to do when I sub in.
“It’s nice to know what I have to come in and do, as opposed to being out there clueless and having to feel my way around.”
Even if he isn’t starting, Hutchison is gaining experience in key moments, building toward the sort of player his coach has envisioned. Rice said Hutchison could be an all-Mountain West caliber player before he played a game at Boise State.
“It’s big for my confidence,” Hutchison said.
Rice said Tuesday he expects senior guard Montigo Alford to play against the Aggies after he missed the Dec. 20 game against Bradley with an ankle injury. The Broncos used three bench players against the Braves, the shortest bench Rice said he’s ever had to use.
Freshman center Robin Jorch, who has not played the past two games with an ankle injury, has practiced but is questionable.
UC Davis (4-7) at Boise State (8-4)
- When: 7 p.m. Wednesday, Taco Bell Arena
- TV: None (live stream at BroncoSports.com/videos)
- Radio: 670 KBOI AM
- Tickets: $7-$18 for juniors, $8-$19 for seniors, $9-$20 for adults at Taco Bell Arena box office or BroncoSports.com/tickets