Chandler Hutchison did a little bit of everything for Boise State basketball Saturday afternoon at Taco Bell Arena.
The junior shot 3-pointers. He brought the crowd to life with thunderous dunks. He rebounded like a center and led fast breaks like a point guard. He even helped mop the floor during a timeout.
“They were saying there was a spot on the floor, and the kid looked so rattled. It was his one shining moment and he blew it,” Hutchison said with a laugh. “So I (stepped in).”
Hutchison scored 14 points, grabbed six rebounds and dished out three assists in the first half on the way to a career-high 23 points and 11 rebounds, helping Boise State to a 23-point halftime lead and a 85-46 win over Northwest University in the Broncos’ regular season opener. Hutchison was almost perfect from the field, going 9-for-10 and 2-for-2 from 3-point range.
“I told him, “You have 11 rebounds, and the great thing is we pulled you because you weren’t rebounding enough,’” Boise State head coach Leon Rice said. “We’re going to push him. We’re going to make him better. My staff is doing a great job with him, and Chandler is doing a terrific job.”
Boise State started Hutchison, senior forward Nick Duncan, redshirt sophomore forward David Wacker, redshirt senior guard James Reid and true freshman guard Justinian Jessup. Jessup is the fourth true freshman in the last 12 years to start a season opener for BSU.
Although a young group took the floor, the Broncos appeared anything but inexperienced from start-to-finish against the NAIA program from Kirkland, Wash. Eight players scored for the Broncos in their 43-point first half on 54 percent shooting. Boise State shot 52 percent from the field for the game and 8-for-22 from 3-point range.
“You know and I know that we aren’t expecting to roll in anywhere we go and have it every night like this,” Rice said. “But with eight new guys and all these young guys, we needed to build up. If you throw them in the deep end right away, they’re (going to) drown. So, we have to teach them how to swim a little bit. We’re not great swimmers, but we can doggie paddle now.”
As efficient as the offense was, it was the defense that ultimately set the tone against Northwest. The Eagles, who came in averaging 94.7 points per game, shot 28 percent from the field and hit just 3-of-17 from behind the 3-point line.
“I don’t care what team it is, (holding a team to 28 percent shooting) is a real accomplishment, especially this early in the season,” Hutchison said. “So, we’re just going to try to build on that.”
Boise State’s size advantage was clear from the opening tip-off; Hutchison and Jessup had as many rebounds from the perimeter (13) as Northwest did as a team in the first half. The Broncos outrebounded Northwest in the game, 50-27, and frequently took advantage of second-shot opportunities around the basket.
“I think there are some things that we’re doing pretty well. One of them is rebounding,” Rice said. “Especially defensive rebounding. That’s who we are. And we got some big offensive rebounds that resulted in hoops. So, we’ll just keep building on that.”
Hutchison came out on fire in the second half as well, hitting a pair of layups and a 3-pointer to extend the lead to 30. In addition to his career-high in points, Hutchison also had three assists and three steals in 25 minutes of action. His 11 rebounds tied a career-high.
Jessup added 10 points and seven rebounds, while freshman Alex Hobbs and Duncan chipped in 11 and eight points, respectively.
“It’s not really a surprise for me. ... I’m putting in more work this season, but it’s great to go out there and these (young) guys are already on the court,” senior forward Nick Duncan said. “It’s not really a surprise to me to see these guys be successful.”
The Broncos are off until Thursday when they take on the College of Charleston in the first game of the Gildan Charleston Classic in South Carolina. If his team is just now learning how to swim, Rice knows the Broncos need to be Olympic-caliber swimmers quickly with road games at the Charleston Classic, Oregon, and Evansville coming up in the next month.
The Charleston field includes defending NCAA champion Villanova, Wake Forest, UTEP and Mississippi State.
“Back to the swimming analogy: we just went from the kiddie pool to the deep end with no lifeguards,” Rice said. “It’s just good team after good team for the next four weeks.”
Tip-off for Boise State’s game against the College of Charleston is 5 p.m. Thursday.
Boise State women open season against Southern Oregon
The Boise State women’s basketball team begins its regular season this weekend as well, hosting Southern Oregon at Taco Bell Arena on Sunday.
The Broncos, picked to finish second behind Colorado State in the Mountain West’s preseason poll, return four starters from last season’s 19-11 team, including senior all-conference guard Brooke Pahukoa.
Southern Oregon, from the NAIA’s Division II, is 2-1 this year, having beaten Montana Tech on Saturday, 83-74.
Tip-off for Boise State’s regular season opener is set for 2 p.m.