In what was likely one of the most frustrating games of his collegiate career, Chandler Hutchison never gave up.
The Boise State senior guard and Preseason Mountain West Player of the Year had just one field goal going into the final minute of Boise State’s first-round game against UTEP on Thursday at the relocated Puerto Rico Tip-off.
But Hutchison’s five points in the final 14 seconds turned a three-point deficit into a 58-56 victory. The Broncos (3-0) will play Illinois State (1-1) — a 69-65 winner against South Carolina — in the semifinals at 11 a.m. Mountain time Friday in Conway, S.C. The game will be broadcast on ESPN2.
“I was really proud of our guys and the fact that that’s what good teams do, they kind of hang in there, find a way to get it done when things aren’t going right, and things went about as wrong as you can have it go,” Boise State men’s basketball coach Leon Rice said. “Credit UTEP, they have a good team.”
After a UTEP turnover on an inbound pass with about 30 seconds to go, Hutchison dribbled down the court and went straight for the hoop off a Justinian Jessup screen. When UTEP’s defenders failed to switch, Hutchison made the easy dunk to cut the deficit to 56-55.
The Broncos immediately fouled, sending UTEP senior Keith Frazier to the line with 9.8 seconds left. Frazier missed the front end of the one-and-one, setting up Hutchison’s game-winning play.
Boise State sophomore Alex Hobbs corralled the rebound and handed off to Hutchison, who went coast to coast for a layup while drawing a foul.
“In that position where we got the rebound, I just wanted to shoot a shot I’ve been shooting the whole game, dribbling the length of the floor and trying to lay the ball in,” Hutchison said. “ ... Just wanted to get out there, get the defense on their heels and make the play.”
Hutchison made the free throw for the two-point lead, and UTEP’s final shot just past half court hit the backboard and grazed the rim.
Hutchison finished the game 3-for-14 from the field and 4-for-7 from the free-throw line for 10 points.
“I get so excited about being in this position, playing in a tournament like this against real good quality teams. Sometimes I get a little antsy and it can get the best of me,” Hutchison said. “But I feel like the shots I missed this game I’ve been making. That’s the tough thing about it.”
Sophomore point guard Marcus Dickinson led the Broncos with 13 points, including four 3-pointers.
His triple with just over a minute remaining in the game pulled the Broncos within 54-51 after they had trailed by as many as nine points in the second half.
Hobbs was the only other Bronco in double figures with 10 points.
UTEP’s Frazier led all scorers with 22 points. He hit three 3s in a row over about a 1:00 stretch midway through the second half to help the Miners retake the lead. UTEP (1-1) trailed by as many as 13 points in the first half and led Boise State by nine with 3:22 to play.
“There are some nights when the ball just bounces bad for you,” Rice said. “Being a competitive animal and being able to fight through it is what we want our guys to be able to do.”
BOISE STATE MEN, WOMEN HEAD TO CROSS COUNTRY NATIONALS
She fell down in one race, she lost a shoe in another.
It hasn’t been the ideal cross country season for Boise State sophomore Allie Ostrander, but once again, the Alaska native should compete for a national title. Ostrander redshirted last fall, but she was the national runner-up at the 2015 national meet. She and the Broncos’ full men’s and women’s teams will compete Saturday in Louisville at the NCAA Cross Country Championships.
“This season hasn’t gone super smoothly, there’s been some ups and downs, but I feel like it’s heading in the right direction now, hoping everything comes together at the right time,” Ostrander said.
The Bronco women are ranked No. 12 and the men are No. 23. It is the second time in program history both teams qualified for nationals (2015 being the other).
“It’s what we want to do every year ... but getting it accomplished, we’re excited,” coach Corey Ihmels said, adding that Ostrander “is going to lay it all on the line.”
Ostrander finished second at the West Regional and will be pushed by West champion Charlotte Taylor (San Francisco), New Mexico’s Ednah Kurgat and defending national champion Karissa Schweizer (Missouri).
The women’s race begins at 8:45 a.m. Mountain time Saturday, followed by the men at 9:45 a.m.
“I think each race we’ve shown potential ... as the year’s come along, we’ve shown if everyone’s ready we can perform well,” said sophomore Miler Haller, who finished eighth in the men’s race at regionals.