Leon Rice brought the orange jerseys back into the rotation Tuesday night at Save Mart Center, and his Boise State men’s basketball team responded just the way he had hoped.
Wearing their orange uniforms for the first time in nearly two years, the Broncos took down Fresno State 70-64 for a crucial Mountain West road victory.
Boise State had not worn orange since a 97-93 double-overtime loss at Colorado State on Feb. 11, 2016.
“(Rice) talked about bringing passion and bringing fight. We didn’t know we were going to wear (the orange jerseys), and coach asks us, ‘What’s our most passionate color?’ ” Boise State sophomore Alex Hobbs said of a meeting before the pregame meal. “Then he comes out and he’s got an orange jersey on himself. It was hilarious. We were all fired up.”
Playing their second straight road game and coming off a 79-78 overtime loss at Wyoming, the Broncos (14-3, 4-1) matched the heat in their jerseys in the first half, outscoring Fresno State 11-3 in the opening minutes.
“Orange is a powerful color, and we were all about how hard we were going to play and the passion we were going to play with,” Rice said. “... Ultimately, it’s the guys inside the uniforms who are a little more important than the color, but I enjoyed it. I think the orange looked sharp, and it was great to win in them.”
Hobbs went 5-for-5 from the field in the first half for 15 points as Boise State built a 32-21 halftime lead. But behind a vocal home crowd, the Bulldogs (12-6, 2-3) fought their way back in the second half, cutting Boise State’s lead to 66-64 with 31.4 seconds left.
“We had a great approach to this game. We had a terrific first half,” Rice said. “Then (Fresno State) made a run at us in the second half, and we kept answering all their runs.”
The two teams combined for 52 fouls in the game, 31 of which were called in the second half.
Boise State senior Chandler Hutchison went just 3-for-12 from the field but converted on 15-of-18 free throws to total a game-high 21 points with 10 rebounds and four assists. It was Hutchison’s eighth double-double of the season and 19th of his career, tying him for third place in BSU history for career double-doubles.
Hobbs finished with 20 points, and Chris Sengfelder (13) and Lexus Williams (10) also reached double figures as the Broncos won at Fresno for the first time since Feb. 23, 2013.
“Two aggressive teams with guys that like to drive the ball, so you know it’s going to be a lot of contact,” Hutchison said. “... It was an aggressive game and very physical. I think it was good for us to bang in there.”
Even with 52 fouls, only Fresno State’s Jaron Hopkins fouled out. Zach Haney and Justinian Jessup each finished with four fouls for the Broncos.
After Fresno got within 66-64 with 31.4 left, Williams broke through Fresno’s full-court press and drew a foul near halfcourt with the Broncos in the bonus. He made both free throws to quiet the crowd, and Hutchison followed with two of his own with 18.5 seconds to go to sink Fresno’s rally.
“Anyone who’s been through the Mountain West knows how hard it is to go anywhere and get a road win,” Rice said. “You’ve got great coaches. You’ve got great teams and tough environments. You have your work cut out for you. To get any one of them is tough.”
BOISE ST. 70, FRESNO ST. 64
BOISE ST. (14-3)
Haney 0-2 0-2 0, Sengfelder 6-11 0-2 13, L.Williams 3-5 4-4 10, Jessup 1-1 0-0 3, Hutchison 3-12 15-18 21, Wacker 0-0 0-0 0, Jorch 0-3 0-0 0, Hobbs 7-9 6-7 20, Dickinson 1-5 0-0 3, Jardine 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 21-48 25-33 70.
FRESNO ST. (12-6)
B.Williams 4-8 1-1 9, Bittner 0-2 0-0 0, D.Taylor 2-13 9-10 15, Bowles 3-11 3-5 9, Hopkins 5-7 1-2 11, Grimes 0-0 1-3 1, Carter 4-6 1-2 9, McWilliams 0-0 0-0 0, J.Taylor 3-8 2-2 10. Totals 21-55 18-25 64.
Halftime—Boise St. 32-21. 3-Point Goals—Boise St. 3-12 (Jessup 1-1, Dickinson 1-4, Sengfelder 1-6, Hutchison 0-1), Fresno St. 4-14 (J.Taylor 2-5, D.Taylor 2-6, Bowles 0-1, Bittner 0-2). Fouled Out—Hopkins. Rebounds—Boise St. 39 (Hutchison 10), Fresno St. 29 (Bittner, Hopkins 6). Assists—Boise St. 9 (Hutchison 4), Fresno St. 14 (Hopkins 5). Total Fouls—Boise St. 25, Fresno St. 27. A—4,980 (15,544).