In his first game in a Boise State uniform, Lexus Williams attempted one shot — and he missed.
Nineteen games into the season, the senior graduate transfer from Valparaiso is playing a quiet but crucial role in his one and only season as a Bronco.
Williams provided the bookends to Boise State’s 71-67 victory against Utah State on Wednesday at Taco Bell Arena, helping the Broncos remain perfect in 11 home games this season and setting up a first-place Mountain West showdown Saturday at Nevada (8 p.m. MT, ESPNU).
“I’m just gaining confidence, really. My teammates trust me to make plays, coaches trust me to make plays, and I’m just picking my spots knowing when and where to do it,” Williams said.
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“Usually to start the game you’ve got to be aggressive, get everybody going, and at the end of the game, it’s just something about those moments. I love it when the game’s close and they put the ball in my hands. ... I’m always ready.”
Williams scored Boise State’s first two baskets of the game, and his free throws with 2.4 seconds left turned a one-possession game into a four-point lead, eliminating the Aggies’ hopes of a stunner at the buzzer. He finished with 14 points on 5-of-10 shooting from the floor with a pair of 3s.
“Those little, subtle plays that those seniors through their experience can give you are so valuable, and just his calming effect out there,” Boise State coach Leon Rice said. “I took a timeout and I said: ‘Hey, I’m not trying to ice the shooter. I know you’re going to make (the free throws) either way, I’m just going to make sure you guys understand the scenarios.’
“(Williams) just smiled and said, ‘I’ll just make them both.’ ”
In his first outing since scoring a school-record 44 points, Boise State senior Chandler Hutchison was held to just two points in the first half. But the Aggies (10-10 overall, 3-4 MW) couldn’t sustain the near shutout of Boise State’s NBA prospect, as Hutchison overcame double and triple teams in the second half for a total of 16 points.
Hutchison scored six of Boise State’s final eight points over the last 3 minutes of the game as the Broncos came back from as many as nine points down.
“Coaches trust me with the ball there, and I can’t say enough about that,” Hutchison said. “At that point, when the ball’s in your hands, you’ve just got to trust the work that you’ve put in, never try to do anything too crazy. I just tried to take the game as it came, and I got a couple layups. The lane opened up a little bit because some of the guys were hitting shots.”
Sophomore point guard Marcus Dickinson hit several of those shots to tie a career high with 16 points — hitting on 3-of-4 3-pointers — and fellow sophomore Alex Hobbs had 14 points to give the Broncos (16-3, 6-1) 30 bench points.
Boise State’s 16-3 record matches the 1987-88 and 1988-89 teams for the best start in school history.
“You get into conference, it’s like slugging rats in the sewer. You’re just fighting for your life, and the rats are big and ugly,” Rice said. “... That’s playing in league. All the games aren’t going to be beautiful and pretty.”
women: BSU 64, Utah State 42
Boise State held Utah State to just three points in the fourth quarter for a third straight Mountain West victory Wednesday in Logan, Utah.
Sophomore guard Riley Lupfer continued her torrid pace from beyond the arc for the Broncos (11-7, 5-2), going 5-for-10 on 3s against the Aggies for a team-leading 19 points. Lupfer has 65 3-pointers this season, which ranks 10th in Boise State’s single-season record books.
Boise State forced 21 Utah State (4-14, 2-5) turnovers, the most by a Division I opponent this season.
BOISE STATE 71, UTAH STATE 67
UTAH ST. (10-10): Dargenton 0-0 0-0 0, Brown 3-9 4-4 11, Brito 0-3 0-0 0, Merrill 9-12 0-0 23, McEwen 5-11 0-0 11, Taylor 4-6 0-0 9, Henson 1-2 0-0 2, Porter 0-0 0-0 0, Isby 4-9 3-4 11. Totals 26-52 7-8 67.
BOISE ST. (16-3): Haney 1-2 0-0 2, Sengfelder 0-5 2-2 2, Williams 5-10 2-2 14, Jessup 3-9 0-0 7, Hutchison 7-15 1-1 16, Wacker 0-0 0-0 0, Jorch 0-0 0-0 0, Dickinson 6-8 1-3 16, Hobbs 5-9 3-3 14. Totals 27-58 9-11 71.
Halftime—Boise St. 37-32. 3-Point Goals—Utah St. 8-23 (Merrill 5-6, Taylor 1-3, McEwen 1-5, Brown 1-5, Brito 0-1, Isby 0-3), Boise St. 8-18 (Dickinson 3-4, Williams 2-3, Hobbs 1-2, Jessup 1-4, Hutchison 1-4, Sengfelder 0-1). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—Utah St. 30 (McEwen 8), Boise St. 22 (Hutchison 6). Assists—Utah St. 10 (McEwen 4), Boise St. 7 (Hobbs 3). Total Fouls—Utah St. 13, Boise St. 8.