Boise State Basketball

Boise State basketball survives Father-Son Day scare

The Rice family reunion

Boise State basketball coach Leon Rice faced his son, Brock, Saturday afternoon when Northwest Christian traveled to Taco Bell Arena.
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Boise State basketball coach Leon Rice faced his son, Brock, Saturday afternoon when Northwest Christian traveled to Taco Bell Arena.

Though it was being touted as a Rice family reunion, Saturday afternoon’s exhibition between Boise State and Northwest Christian wound up being a back-and-forth affair by virtue of exciting basketball rather than just a sentimental storyline.

Brock Rice, son of Boise State head coach Leon Rice and a freshman guard at Northwest Christian, made his return to Boise to take on the team he grew up watching and practicing with. Though it was just an exhibition, the No. 12 team in NAIA Division II gave the Broncos all they could handle for 40 minutes.

Freshman guard Justinian Jessup saved the day for Boise State, tying for the team lead with 15 points, including a dagger 3-pointer with 1:41 remaining to lead the Broncos to a 91-76 victory.

“The thing I wanted when I scheduled these two good teams that we played in exhibition, I wanted that. That’s about exactly what we needed. It wouldn’t have helped us much if we had won by 40,” Leon Rice said. “That was a fun night, a fun game.”

The Broncos tested out a different starting lineup from last week, inserting Jessup and sophomore forward Zach Haney in the lineup in place of Paris Austin and David Wacker. Jessup made an immediate impact, scoring the first nine points of the game for the Broncos while also taking primary ball-handling duties.

“I was just playing with a lot more confidence than the last game,” Jessup said. “My coaches put trust in me, my Coach Rice especially. I got off to a good start and just went from there.”

After Boise State took what looked to be a safe 48-39 lead into halftime, the Beacons came back in a hurry, going on a 10-0 run to take a 61-60 lead midway through the second half. It was back-and-forth from there, as huge baskets from Jessup and Northwest Christian’s Jack Hackman didn’t allow either team to rest comfortably. Jessup’s game-tying 3-pointer with 8:23 remaining sparked Boise State’s final 24-9 run; his 3-pointer with less two minutes remaining put the Broncos up by 13 and allowed them to breathe a sigh of relief.

“There wasn’t any hesitation (when Jessup shot),” junior guard Chandler Hutchison said. “That’s something that’s also different about this year’s team. Every guy is cheering for each other. We have one goal in mind. There’s no outside distractions. We really are just here to win. Whether you’re a freshman or whether you’re a senior, everyone is going to trust you to shoot the ball.”

Brock Rice, who starred at Timberline, played just seven minutes for Northwest Christian, all of them coming in the first half. He scored four points and hit his lone 3-point attempt.

“That kid can get hot,” Leon Rice said with a grin. “I thought he did a great job. He’s trying to fit in on a really good team, and I thought he did a good job of fitting in with his role.”

The Broncos open regular-season play next Saturday at home against Northwest University. Tip-off is 1 p.m. at Taco Bell Arena.

Boise State women will play in Twitter’s first live-streamed college basketball game Sunday against Alaska-Fairbanks

The Boise State women’s basketball team begins play Sunday, hosting an exhibition against Alaska-Fairbanks at 2 p.m. at Taco Bell Arena. Though it’s just a preseason game on paper, it will be historic.

The game will be streamed on Twitter, making it the first college basketball game (men’s or women’s) to be live streamed on the social media giant.

“I think it’s exciting for our program and the players,” Boise State head coach Gordy Presnell said. “It is always a good opportunity to pave the way in new things, and for us to be in the first game to be broadcast live by Twitter is exciting.”

The Broncos, who were selected to finish second in the Mountain West’s preseason poll behind Colorado State, return four starters, including preseason All-Mountain West selection guard Brooke Pahukoa and forward Shalen Shaw.

“It’ll be nice to see finally where we’re at, kind of have a bar, and then we have a week before we get going full blast,” Presnell said. “We have a good group of returnees, but we have a lot of new ones, so it’ll be interesting how, when they finally put a uniform on, see how they do.”

The Broncos went 19-11 and won the Mountain West Tournament in 2015-16. They made the NCAA Tournament, losing to Tennessee in the first round. With four returning starters, expectations are high for Presnell’s team.

“We have a good group. That’s for sure,” Presnell said. “We’ve had a good run here. If we can stay healthy, the new people can fill a role and do their thing, I think we can have a really good year.”

Sunday’s game against the Nanooks won’t likely provide a huge challenge for the Broncos. That being said, Presnell needs to see a few specific things from his team before they get started with their regular-season slate.

“This more about young kids getting a chance to put a uniform on and it doesn’t count. And to see where we’re at,” Presnell said. “Who’s going to give us what with the lights on, who’s going to be able to follow through with the game plan. I would (also) love to see us step it up a bit in terms of our physicality of play. That’s been an area that we have to get better at.”

The regular season starts next Sunday at home against Southern Oregon.

Michael Katz: 208-377-6444, @MichaelLKatz