Boise State coach Leon Rice, players on exhibition opener
On more than one occasion in the month leading up to his team’s first game of the 2017-18 season, Boise State men’s basketball coach Leon Rice pointed out that he used 61 different starting lineups in seven previous seasons with the Broncos.
While Rice doesn’t anticipate his starting lineup for Thursday’s 74-69 exhibition win over College of Idaho will be the same one he uses once the calendar turns to 2018, fans at Taco Bell Arena did get an idea who might be the Broncos’ biggest contributors this season.
After a slow and sloppy first half that included eight turnovers and a five-point deficit to the NAIA Coyotes, the Broncos regained composure and did what was expected — win.
“They were juiced up to play us,” Boise State senior Chandler Hutchison said. “It took us a while to just take a deep breath there at halftime and then realize and get back to our identity.
“Yeah, there were some jitters there. That’s going to happen early, but we’ve just got to get better from it and get more poised down the stretch.”
With the first-game nerves out of the way, here are some of the takeaways from the exhibition opener.
Early look at starting lineup
Senior graduate transfers Christian Sengfelder and Lexus Williams started for the Broncos against the Coyotes, joining junior Zach Haney, sophomore Alex Hobbs and Hutchison.
The same group started the second half, but it wasn’t necessarily the lineup that performed the best.
Rice and his staff kept Hutchison, Sengfelder, Hobbs, Justinian Jessup and Marcus Dickinson on the court for much of the second half.
Jessup started all but one game for the Broncos last season, and Dickinson was expected to contend for the starting spot at point guard.
“The biggest thing is I don’t know the best (lineup) combinations right now,” Rice said. “So you get some guys that step up, and I thought some guys stepped up in the second half.
“Alex did some good things. Marcus did great things taking care of the ball and guarding, and we need those two things.”
Hutchison finished with 25 points, seven rebounds and two assists. Sengfelder (15) and Hobbs (14) also reached double figures.
At halftime, Hutchison and Sengfelder were the only Broncos with multiple field goals. Nine Broncos saw playing time, but Rice said after the game he had hoped to play more of his bench.
“I hate to have a short bench at the exhibition game, but this game dictated it,” Rice said.
Sengfelder more than just a big man
At 6-foot-9 and 246 pounds, Fordham transfer Sengfelder has the build of a tree trunk, but that doesn’t mean the big man won’t be a factor outside the key.
The senior’s first points of the game came on a 3-pointer, and he also scored with a turnaround jumper in the key, mid-range shot, putback and two-handed dunk on a fastbreak.
Sengfelder added a team-leading eight rebounds in 33 minutes.
“I’m excited about him,” Rice said. “He’s a tough kid. ... Second half he made some big plays for us, and he’s going to be really, really valuable for us.”
Rice harps on turnovers
Boise State’s 19 turnovers didn’t sit well with Rice after the game.
“Our issue right now is we’re shooting ourselves in the foot. Our turnovers, that’s what’s bugging me. They’re just egregious,” Rice said. “They’re third-grade turnovers. We’ve got to eliminate those and get better.”
Hutchison committed a game-high seven turnovers, while Haney, Hobbs and Williams had three apiece.
“That’s communication and getting used to playing with each other,” Hutchison said. “That will come, so I don’t think (turnovers) are a huge concern.”
Coyotes show grit
College of Idaho has nine former Idaho high school players on its roster, and the Gem State standouts thrived in front of a local crowd.
The Coyotes — who ranked seventh in the latest NAIA Division II poll — led by as many as eight points in the first half. C of I hit 11 3-pointers, including two in the final minute to cut the final margin to single digits.
“It’s a successful program,” Hutchison said of the Coyotes. “I think that was overlooked by us a little bit. We were more in our own heads a little bit with guys wanting to step up. ... Credit to them. They came out and punched us in the gut there, but also credit to us on how we were able to weather it and stick with it.”
The Coyotes’ Keun Palu-Thompson matched Hutchison with 25 points, Justin Saunders (Capital High) added 12 points on four 3s and Talon Pinckney (Centennial) dished out a game-high five assists to go with nine points.
“Personally, I’ve been waiting for about a year and a half now to play them,” Pinckney said. “We were excited because we knew we had nothing to lose.”
Where was Wacker?
Junior forward David Wacker started the majority of the Broncos’ games last season, but he did not play in the exhibition.
Rice said Wacker is recovering from offseason shoulder surgery and a stress fracture.
“He’s just coming back,” Rice said. “I don’t know if he’s made it through a full practice yet. ... We don’t want to throw him into the fire too quick.”
Boise State plays its regular-season opener at home next Friday against Eastern Oregon, followed by a game against Southern Utah on that Sunday.
BSU women picked to win conference
For the first time since joining the Mountain West Conference, the Boise State women’s basketball team was selected as the league favorite in a preseason poll.
The defending Mountain West champions have qualified for the NCAA Tournament in two of the past three seasons and return four of their top five scorers from last year’s team.
The Broncos received seven first-place votes and 221 points for the No. 1 spot, and Wyoming was second with six first-place nods and 216 points. Colorado State was third with 211 points and six first-place votes.
Boise State senior forward Shalen Shaw was voted to the All-Mountain West preseason team. Shaw averaged 10.1 points and 7.1 rebounds per game last season as the Broncos set a school record for wins with 25.
The Broncos open the season against Carroll College in an exhibition game at 2 p.m. Sunday at Taco Bell Arena.