Leon Rice: "That was a great finish"
If history tends to repeat itself, Boise State is glad it got a chance to rewrite it Wednesday night.
Fresh off a game they lost at Oregon after leading by as many as 14 points, the Broncos led a solid SMU team by 20 points at halftime. Things got close late, however, with the Mustangs inching to within five points.
This time, Leon Rice’s team stood tall.
The Broncos shot a scorching 61.5 percent from the field in the first half against SMU and withstood a late run to defeat the Mustangs 71-62 in front of a crowd of 4,812 at Taco Bell Arena. Junior guard Chandler Hutchison led the way with 21 points.
“That was a great finish,” Rice said. “When you play good teams, they’re going to respond. Good teams don’t get beat by 30. If somebody thought they were going to pack up and leave at halftime, then they haven’t watched enough basketball. You could have dropped your head. You could have felt sorry for yourself, all the different responses ... I was really, really proud of it.”
Everything Boise State (4-3) shot seemed to hit the bottom of the net early Wednesday evening. Hutchison scored the first six points of the game for the Broncos and had 12 in the first half. He managed just 11 points at Oregon on Monday. Redshirt senior James Reid hit four 3-pointers in the first 20 minutes, building off his 2-for-4 effort against the Ducks. Reid was shooting 15 percent from deep before coming out of his slump over the last two games.
“I knew coming off a redshirt year it was going to be a transition period of getting back on the court. And when you’re a shooter and your shots don’t start to go, it adds to the challenge,” said Reid, who scored 18. “When the first couple go in, that basket gets big, fast.”
SMU (4-3) reversed roles with Boise State to start the second half, opening the period on a 12-0 run. The Broncos were held scoreless the first 5 minutes of the second half on 0-for-7 shooting, allowing the Mustangs to close the gap to eight.
It could have easily been a case of deja vu for the Broncos, but Hutchison and his teammates were not going to let that happen again.
As has been the case in the early goings this season, true freshman Justinian Jessup saved the day, hitting a pair of huge 3-pointers to give the Broncos breathing room. Hutchison scored six of his 21 in the game’s final six minutes, hitting acrobatic shot after acrobatic shot to ease any tensions in the arena.
“We gave a tremendous effort in the second half, but this wasn’t a good night,” SMU coach Tim Jankovich said. “It’s not one to be proud of.”
Seven different players scored for Boise State, which wound up shooting 46.3 percent for the game after its hot start. In addition to his 21 points, Hutchison led the Broncos with seven assists and had two steals. Jessup ended up with 11 points on 4-for-8 shooting.
Wednesday night’s win was without a doubt a big one for the Broncos, who notched their first victory over an NCAA Tournament quality opponent.
But there is no rest for the weary.
Boise State travels to Evansville (Ind.) for a game on Saturday and immediately flies to Los Angeles to face Loyola Marymount on Monday. Before worrying about that, though, the Broncos will enjoy a hard-fought victory. Given the quick turnaround from Monday’s loss, they deserve it.
“It got close there at the end, but it just shows our will to get it done in a game like this,” Hutchison said. “It was so dragging, that Oregon game, to play so well and come up short,” Hutchison said. “We really wanted to finish strong (against Southern Methodist). And I’m just really proud of how we ended this game.”
Nick Duncan nominated for 2017 Allstate NABC Good Works Team
Boise State senior forward Nick Duncan is a nominee for the 2017 Allstate NABC Good Works Team, Allstate announced in a release Tuesday morning. Duncan is one of 181 college men’s basketball players from the NCAA and NAIA nominated for the team, which recognizes charitable service in the community. Ten players will be selected to the final team in February.