The Boise State men’s basketball team has been strong beyond the 3-point line this season, making double-digit 3s in five of its first seven games.
But the Broncos found almost unprecedented success against Loyola (Chicago) on Tuesday night, connecting on 16 of 28 to rout the previously unbeaten Ramblers 87-53 at Taco Bell Arena.
The Broncos’ 16 3-pointers tied for the fourth-best single-game performance in program history. Nine different Broncos made 3s, led by sophomore Justinian Jessup’s 6-for-7 outing. Jessup scored a game-high 20 points.
Boise State made 17 3s in its season-opener over NAIA program Eastern Oregon on 35 attempts, but their 57.1-percent clip beyond the arc against the Ramblers is a season-high.
“It makes it so hard to guard when everybody out there can shoot. Sometimes if you have a nonshooter out there, the ball would swing around and it ends up with him wide open every single time,” Boise State coach Leon Rice said. “Now, wherever it ends up, and if we do the right thing and move it to the wide-open guy, he’s going to have a great chance of making it.”
Graduate transfers Christian Sengfelder and Lexus Williams added two 3s apiece and finished with 10 and 12 points, respectively. Five Boise State players scored in double figures, and for the third time this season, all 13 Broncos who suited up saw playing time.
The Broncos got 30 points from the bench to offset a quiet night for senior Chandler Hutchison, who went 1 for 3 from the field in his first game back after sustaining a concussion against Iowa State. Hutchison, Zach Haney and Robin Jorch each missed much of the first half against the Ramblers with foul trouble.
“It’s great to just know that when some of us got in foul trouble from the beginning, people come off the bench and step up and play,” said Haney, who contributed 13 points and four rebounds in 18 minutes. “... I feel like it’s always fun, especially for the guys who have lower minutes, just to see them come out and step on the court, have fun and see one of their shots fall. I love it when that happens.”
Boise State scored the first 11 points of the game. The early push was capped by the first of Jessup’s 3-pointers, four of which he made in the first half.
Jessup started 31 games for the Broncos (6-1) last season but had come off the bench the first five games of 2017. He replaced Hutchison in the starting lineup against Loyola Marymount last Saturday and started in place of sophomore Alex Hobbs against the Ramblers (7-1). Going into Tuesday’s game, Jessup (13.8 ppg) and Hobbs (13.3 ppg) were leading the Broncos in scoring.
“They’re the greatest group of guys that really do care about each other and the team. They put that first,” Rice said. “It starts with Chandler. ... It’s his first game back. He was kind of getting it going. He was in foul trouble, but he doesn’t get upset about taking three shots. That’s not common, and that’s where that whole team thing starts.
“And that’s why Justinian is like, ‘I don’t care if I come off the bench. I want to help the team. Whatever’s best.’ Hobbs is the same way. It gives me some flexibility to keep moving things around, and it makes for a great ball club.”
Boise State outrebounded Loyola 41-23 – the fourth time this season the Broncos have finished with a double-digit lead on the boards. BSU outrebounded Eastern Oregon by 15, Illinois State by 30 and Loyola Marymount by 24.
Sengfelder grabbed 12 rebounds to go with 10 points for his first double-double as a Bronco.
“I think that is our identity. We want to be a great defensive rebounding team, especially, but also offensively,” Sengfelder said. “Just getting those boards, it gives us confidence and it’s something that we thrive on.”
In his eighth season leading the Broncos, Rice improved to 25-0 in November home games at Taco Bell Arena.