There are moments in a college basketball season, a specific game or a certain stretch of games, that can end up defining a team’s season.
The Boise State Broncos men’s basketball team may have very well experienced THAT moment Tuesday night in Albuquerque.
Backs against the wall in an arena where the Broncos had only won once, Boise State could have easily packed it in. They were down 11 at halftime. The Broncos cut the lead to five in early in the second half only to see New Mexico’s lead swell to 13. In 23 games prior to this one, there was only one game they struggled this bad. And that was a game against Iowa State with no Chandler Hutchison.
We should have learned from that game that this Broncos team is always going to battle.
Down 13, Boise State could have walked away and started mentally preparing for Utah State on Saturday.
Seniors Hutchison and Chris Sengfelder were not about to let that happen.
Behind Hutchison (23 points, 12 rebounds) and Sengfelder (24 points, 8 rebounds, 7 of which were on the offensive end), the Broncos dug in. The team battled. They forced turnovers. And after the Lobos knocked down three-point attempt after three-point attempt, they did not make a single field goal for the last 7:33 of the game.
…A big three by Lexus Williams. Hutchison rattling off seven straight points. A huge three from Sengfelder. A trap leading to a steal leading to Hutchison giving the Broncos their first lead since early in the game.
The Lobos blow it!
New Mexico was ahead of Boise State 71-65 with 1:47 remaining in regulation.
The Broncos would win 73-71 behind Chandler Hutchison’s go-ahead layup with 0:16 remaining … pic.twitter.com/vYepkXnzgH
— The Action Network (@ActionNetworkHQ) February 7, 2018
Another close win and another reason to believe this season is shaping up to be a special one.
A coach for the ages
The victory for Boise State (20-4, 10-2) marked the sixth straight season the Broncos reached 20 wins. It also means the team — coupled with Nevada’s loss to UNLV — pulled one win ahead of the Wolf Pack, with their February 14 game looming even larger.
For head coach Leon Rice, the victory marks the 7th time in eight seasons of Rice’s tenure the team has locked up at least 20 wins.
It’s been since the late 1980’s/early 90’s that Boise State has enjoyed this sort of run, thanks in large part to Rice. Lately, the “old ball coach” has shown a propensity for the outrageous. He’s been a match-eating, river crossing, horse riding barrel of fun.
He’s done wonders for this program and is on the cusp of what is hopefully the team’s third NCAA tourney appearance during his reign.
From the starters and on down the bench, this team has given max effort while often battling from deficits. The Boise State Broncos of 2017-18 are a fun group to watch while lifting each other up when the game gets tough.
The destination of the NCAA tournament is the goal, but the steps of this year’s journey have been just as meaningful.
One road game this week down with another just around the corner. The steps won’t get any easier, but let’s hope the results continue to be the same: Victories. And plenty of them.