Justinian Jessup isn’t changing his mentality because of a change in the lineup.
Jessup’s 31 starts in 32 games as a freshman last season for the Boise State men’s basketball team was a program record, but the 6-foot-6 sophomore guard has come off the bench in the Broncos’ first two games of the 2017-18 regular season.
The new role seems to suit him just fine.
Jessup scored a team-leading and career-best 22 points to spearhead Boise State’s 90-69 victory against Southern Utah on Sunday afternoon at Taco Bell Arena as head coach Leon Rice collected his 144th win, the second most in program history behind only Bobby Dye (212).
“I guess the role changes, but the mindset doesn’t,” Jessup said. “I still want to stay aggressive. I want to be in attack mode and find guys open shots.”
Jessup went 6-for-8 from 3-point range — also a career high — highlighted by three triples over a three-minute stretch in the first half as part of a 14-5 run that took Boise State from a one-point deficit to a nine-point lead. Jessup made 50 3s last season, second most by a freshman in BSU history.
“With Justinian, I didn’t have to massage him and say, ‘Well, I want you to come off the bench. You might help our team. You’re a great scorer off the bench,’ ” Rice said. “He loves it. He’s not hung up on that. They’re hung up on the right things. That’s the beauty of this group, and that’s unique around college basketball, probably. When you get a team like that, you can fight through some things and you can make them a lot better.”
Southern Utah (0-2) chose to clamp down on preseason Mountain West Player of the Year Chandler Hutchison with double- and even triple-teams, leaving the door open for a barrage of open shots from the rest of the Broncos (2-0).
And for the second straight game, Boise State shot better than 55 percent from the floor, knocking down 57.6 percent of their shots against the Thunderbirds.
“You’re not out there looking for just one person,” senior point guard Lexus Williams said. “When somebody gets the ball, it’s like, ‘Alright, that’s a bucket right there.’ ”
Hutchison attempted just three shots against Southern Utah and finished with seven points, but he still did his damage behind the scenes with a game-best five assists, six rebounds and two steals.
“Chandler, he doesn’t even blink about shooting three shots,” Rice said. “That’s the kind of kid he is, and that’s the kind of team we have.”
Thirteen Broncos logged playing time and 10 scored. Alex Hobbs (19), Chris Sengfelder and Robin Jorch (10) joined Jessup in double figures.
Boise State continues its stretch of five games in 10 days when it travels to Columbia, South Carolina, to play in the Puerto Rico Tip-off, which was moved from Coliseo Municipal Tomas Dones in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, because of the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.
The Broncos open the tournament against UTEP at noon MT Thursday. The game will be broadcast on ESPNU. The tournament also includes Appalachian State, Illinois State, Iowa State, Tulsa, Western Michigan and South Carolina, which advanced to last season’s Final Four.
“These tournaments, you can get hot and make something special happen that becomes a really, really special memory and a boost for your season,” Rice said.