Conway, S.C., November 17, 2017 – On Thursday afternoon, the Boise State Broncos found themselves only seconds away from being relegated to the consolation bracket of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off at Myrtle Beach. On Friday afternoon, they easily advanced to the tournament championship game.
The Broncos bolted to a 32-11 lead midway through the first half and maintained at least a 20-point advantage for most of the second half in defeating Illinois State 82-64 in the tournament semifinals. Boise State (4-0) will play the winner of Friday’s late game between Iowa State and Tulsa for the championship trophy on Sunday.
Boise had to overcome a five-point deficit in the final minute against UTEP on Thursday to even have a chance at playing for the tournament title. Friday’s game was not nearly as intense, as the Broncos led by as many as 33 points and crushed the Redbirds (1-2) on the boards by a staggering margin of 57 to 27.
“They came out almost as if they’d lost yesterday,” Illinois State coach Dan Muller said of the Broncos. “They came out with a lot of passion and grit, and we had some guys who weren’t ready to compete. We just got outcompeted really in every way.”
Boise senior guard Chandler Hutchison set the energy tone for the Broncos, finishing with 19 points, 18 rebounds and five assists. He was one rebound short of the tournament record set by Shevon Thompson of George Mason in 2014, and tied Taj Gibson for the second-most productive double-double in tournament history (behind only Thompson’s 21 points and 19 boards).
“That’s just the energy I try to play with every game,” Hutchison said. “Our coaches say you can’t be a one-dimensional player. If your shot’s not falling, then how else can you help out the team? Our rebounding effort is something we try to hang our hats on.”
That effort was more than enough on Friday. And now the Broncos advance to a tournament championship opportunity that appeared to be out of their reach until the final minutes of Thursday’s game against UTEP.
“You always have those six or seven games every year that could go the other way. That’s something we talk about often,” Hutchison said. “We’ve fallen short on those games a lot in the past, where if we’d just gotten one more rebound or made one more play, we would have won the game. But this year, we have a group of guys who want to do those little things that can make all the difference.”