Boise and the surrounding Treasure Valley is blanketed in snow and cold, but the Boise State men’s basketball team is doing their best to heat things up.
The Broncos (3-0, 10-4) won their sixth straight game on Wednesday, a 18-point drubbing of the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels in Las Vegas. The victory gave Boise State a 3-0 record in the Mountain West–alone in first place–and marked just the 8th time in program history the Broncos have started 3-0 in conference. It’s the third time they’ve accomplished it under head coach Leon Rice.
A marked difference between this season and last is the Broncos are finding ways to win close games. During their winning streak, three of the six games have been decided by three points or less.
On the season, Boise State is averaging 75 points per game and holding opponents to 66. Team defense has been key, as the opponents are shooting 40.7% from the field (30% from three-point range). During conference games, the Broncos have been stingier, holding opponents to 35.9% from the field.
Boise State is shooting 45.6% from the field. Another team effort, on both sides of the ball, will be needed Saturday night at home against San Diego State (0-2, 8-6) when the Broncos look to win their seventh straight.
Hutch has been clutch
Chandler Hutchison has been everything expected of him and more during the Broncos first 14 games. He is averaging 18.7 points per game–23 ppg in conference–and is also pulling down a team-leading 8.6 rebounds per game. Of the 14 games, Hutchison has had six double-doubles.
The junior is getting his points on a nice mix of jump shots and taking the ball to the hoop. He is shooting 55.7% from the field, knocking down 12 threes on the season.
One of Boise State’s most complete games of the season occurred against UNLV and Hutchison was a big reason why. He scored a career-high 28 points and had 11 rebounds in addition to playing stellar defense.
He was named Mountain West player of the week last week, a week in which he hit the game-winner against Colorado State.
PANDEMONIUM … Hutchison with a walkoff banked three pointer. pic.twitter.com/JHTWYkiw0B
— Stubbs Zanelli (@RivalsStubbs) January 1, 2017
Sophomore Paris Austin stepping up as point guard was one of the question marks heading into the season. Through 14 games, he has also taken his game to new heights.
Austin is averaging 11.1 points and three assists per game. Against UNLV, he hit his first five shots en route to a 16-point, 7-assist, and 6-rebound performance. This was a similar stat line he put up in an early season victory against Western Michigan. The that 91-70 victory, Austin was a perfect 6-6 from the field, 5-5 from the line, had seven assists and six rebounds.
Even in games like his 1-10 performance against Utah State, Austin manages to find ways to contribute. In that game, Austin had six assists and four rebounds.
Senior Nick Duncan (10.6 ppg) and freshman Justinian Jessup (9.6 ppg) are doing their part as the sharpshooters of the offense. The two have combined to knock down 61 three-pointers this season. Duncan is shooting 36% from beyond the arc while Jessup is at 39%.
Duncan has made 211 career threes, while Jessup is combining with Hutchison to get nearly three steals per game.
The Big Men
David Wacker (4.5 rebounds), Robin Jorch, and Zach Haney (4.6 ppg) are playing the rotating game, with coach Rice usually riding the hot hand. All three bring different aspects, whether it be Haney’s shooting, Jorch’s defense or Wacker’s interior play.
The three are combining for 12.6 points and 11.4 rebounds per game. Wacker has been the consistent starter as of late, with Haney and Jorch usually finding playing time based on matchups.
San Diego State Aztecs
The Aztecs lost to Nevada 72-69 on Wednesday, dropping them to 0-2 in conference play. These losses came after they had won four games to end 2016.
San Diego State averages 70 points per game this season, holding opponents to 62.6. They are shooting 42.1% from the field.
Jeremy Helmsley, who had a career-high 30 against Nevada, is the top scorer. Helmsley is pouring in 17 points per game while knocking down 51.4% of his three-point shots. His backcourt mate, Trey Kell, scores 13 points per game but is only shooting 27% from behind the arc.
Zylan Cheatham adds 11 points and a team-leading 7 rebounds per game.
Tip-off for Saturday night’s game is set for 9 pm (MDT) at Taco Bell Arena. In a fitting nod to the recent weather, fans are being asked to wear white for a whiteout.