A lower-level opponent and a key absence made sure Boise State got to work on developing its bench.
All 10 Broncos who saw the floor Monday in their 100-53 rout of Division II Concordia (Ore.) scored and logged at least 10 minutes. With senior guard/forward Anthony Drmic resting an injury, it opened up even more time for those role players.
“Each team’s a little different and each team has to find their strengths, so we’re tweaking a few things with this team, trying to make them better,” Boise State coach Leon Rice said. “... their development is crucial.”
After the Boise State bench combined for 35 minutes and three points in an 88-76 loss Thursday at No. 11 Arizona, it was evident to Rice he needed to get as much time as he could for them as soon as possible.
“It’s a key to our season, really,” Rice said. “That was a big part of what happened, Arizona wore us down. It was their nine against our five.”
One of those sparsely-used Broncos (2-2) was senior guard Lonnie Jackson, and the Boston College transfer delivered. Jackson came into the game with two points in 34 minutes, but he hit three 3-pointers and led all bench scorers with 15 against the Cavaliers (1-3).
“It felt good to get more comfortable in the offense, just get back to my old self, shake off that rust,” Jackson said. “I’m still adjusting to it, where I'm going to be, what’s my niche on the team.”
Rice loves to have a player contribute instant offense off the bench, but it’s a role that isn’t always easy, especially for someone like Jackson, who started 55 games for the Eagles.
“It’s tough being a pinch-hitter,” Rice said. “... Sometimes shooters need four or five shots before they get in a flow. He’s got to adjust to that where it’s, ‘Hey, I’m going to be ready to get my first look and ready to make my first look.’ ”
Sophomore guard Chandler Hutchison led the team with a career-best 18 points. He, Jackson, freshman guard Paris Austin (15 points) and freshman center Robin Jorch (10) each at least doubled their scoring output in the first three games. The bench combined for 36 points, and the Broncos outrebounded the Cavaliers 47-20, led by junior forward James Webb III’s 13 in 19 minutes.
“It’s good to get a mix in with them in these games where the competition isn’t as high,” Hutchison said. “If they can get their niche and that feel, then when they come in those bigger games it’s not as big of an adjustment to not playing all year.”
Boise State will need to have its bench continue to deliver if it wants to be successful this week in California at the Wooden Legacy. The Broncos will play three games in four days, starting with Thursday’s game against UC Irvine in Fullerton, Calif. Drmic, who hyperextended his knee at Arizona but played through it, is expected to play against the Anteaters.
“Perfect, because we had two good days of practice, got to work a lot with those bench guys, and I think it helped them,” Rice said.