Sunday afternoon didn’t solve any impending conversations over New Year’s Six bowl games that Boise State and Western Michigan football fans are bound to have in the coming weeks.
It did, however, help reassure Boise State basketball fans that a new-look offense is going to be just fine.
Swingman Chandler Hutchison had a game-high 20 points and 12 rebounds, while sophomore guard Paris Austin tacked on a career-high 17 points against Western Michigan on Sunday afternoon, leading Boise State to a 91-70 victory on the final day of the Charleston Classic in South Carolina.
Four Broncos (2-2) scored in double-figures as the team shot a blistering 59.3 percent in what was easily its best offensive performance in Charleston. Austin was 6-for-6 from the field and 5-for-5 from the free throw line.
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The win was Boise State’s first at the tournament and clinched a seventh-place finish out of eight teams. Hutchison was named to the All-Tournament team for his efforts after averaging 19 points and 10 rebounds over the three games.
“No question (this was our best game here). With this young a team, this many new guys, I tell these guys that every time we get together, not just every time we we play, but every time we get together … we have to get better. We have to find ways to get better,” Boise State head coach Leon Rice said. “And I thought this tournament was really good for us for that reason. I think that if you watched us tonight and watched us that first game, we improved on a lot of things.”
After woeful offensive efforts against Charleston (47 points) and Mississippi State (68) in their first two games in South Carolina, the Broncos came alive from the field Sunday. Hutchison and Austin combined to score 18 points on 8-for-11 shooting in the first half and helped the Broncos to a 39-35 halftime lead. It was Boise State’s first time leading at intermission since the opener against Northwest University.
Boise State’s defense also did its job against Western Michigan (1-3), holding the Broncos to 37.5 percent from the field in the first half and 37.3 in the game.
Despite the statistical advantages, Western Michigan hung around early due to a disparity at the free throw line. Western Michigan was 10-for-13 in the first half compared to 4-for-5 for Boise State.
Freshman Justinian Jessup continued Boise State’s offensive explosion out of the locker room, scoring five early points in the second half while leading the Broncos on a 15-4 run. Boise State led by as many as 27 points with about a minute remaining in regulation and outrebounded Western Michigan 41-26.
“(We) looked loose on offense, but they had a little grit. We outrebounded them by 15,” Rice said. “I thought we looked like the more physical team. And that showed up in the boards.”
Hutchison, Austin and senior Nick Duncan combined to score 52 of Boise State’s 91 points. Jessup, who made his fourth straight start, scored 10 of his 12 points in the second half.
The Broncos finished play at the Charleston Classic with a 1-2 record. Though Rice was hoping for a better result in South Carolina as far as wins and losses are concerned, he’s pleased with the progress his young team showed in a short period of time.
“I’d like to have gone 3-0 in this tournament. But one of the things, my goal, is that we have to come out of this tournament better than what we went into it,” Rice said. “And I certainly feel like we did that.”
Boise State returns home to play Presbyterian at Taco Bell Arena at 7 p.m. Friday.
WEBB III LEADS 87ERS WITH DOUBLE-DOUBLE
Former Boise State star James Webb III scored 17 points and grabbed 14 rebounds for the Delaware 87ers of the NBA Developmental League on Saturday.
Webb, who was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Philadelphia 76ers in June, was cut by the 76ers in October and assigned to their D-League team.
He was a first team All-Mountain West selection for the Broncos in 2015-16 after averaging 15.8 points and 9.1 rebounds per game.