SEATTLE — Chandler Hutchison said he felt as though his heart was “ripped out” after the Boise State men’s basketball team made an early exit from the Mountain West Tournament last week in Las Vegas.
Wednesday night at Alaska Airlines Arena, Hutchison got that heart back.
Hutchison scored 39 points and pulled down 14 rebounds in his final game in a Boise State uniform, but the Broncos’ disastrous first half was too much to overcome in a 77-74 loss to Washington in the first round of the NIT.
The 6-foot-7 senior guard’s 39 points, 14 rebounds and 14 made free throws were individual postseason records at Boise State.
“He fought to the very last horn and was just a warrior the whole night,” Boise State coach Leon Rice said. “I’m really, really proud of him. There are people who sit out bowl games and sit out postseason, and he’s not about that. That matters.
“He was going to compete with them until the bitter, bitter end, and that’s exactly what he did. That’s what made this team special, and that’s why he’s special.”
Hutchison is widely projected to be a first-round pick in the June 21 NBA Draft, but his focus this season has remained ever present with the Broncos (23-9), who finished tied for the fourth-best record in program history and perhaps a couple wins away from a much-coveted NCAA Tournament berth.
“There were some really, really big highs in this season and there were some heartbreakers,” Rice said. “Our heart was broken a little bit because we had such high expectations for this team, and we were so close to getting it. But you can never fault them, because they always gave such great effort.”
With their season down to a win-or-go-home contest with Washington, the Broncos played their worst half of basketball this season, shooting just 18 percent from the floor (5-for-28) to trail the Huskies 36-21 at halftime.
After a Chris Sengfelder putback with 1:35 on the clock in the first quarter, the Broncos went more than 11 minutes without a field goal until another Sengfelder putback 24.8 seconds before halftime. If not for Boise State’s 10-for-15 performance from the free-throw line, that halftime deficit would have been much worse.
“In a situation like this where it’s a win-or-go-home type of thing for your season, sometimes that can get guys to play a little complacent, a little scared, a little nervous,” Hutchison said. “Everything is magnified.”
The Broncos’ lackluster first half didn’t stop them from making a nearly miraculous comeback in the final minutes.
Hutchison scored 28 points in the second half and nine in the final two minutes to bring the Broncos back from as much as a 17-point deficit. He finished the season with 619 points — the fifth-most in a single season in program history. His 1,478 career points and 634 career rebounds rank ninth and sixth, respectively, on Boise State’s all-time list.
“It’s really still kind of a recovery process from that conference tournament loss where it seemed like your heart’s ripped out from you,” Hutchison said. “It’s hard to feel worse than I did at that, so I’m sure it’ll take some time before it hits me, but that’s all I can ask for is that these guys just gave everything they had.”
Boise State senior graduate transfer Lexus Williams had two tries at tying the game in the finals 2.8 seconds. His first 3-point attempt was blocked, but he got his own rebound.
Williams’ second 3-pointer rolled around the rim and out.
“Just looking at it, it’s kind of how I wanted to finish it off, just showing that I am going to fight and continue to work and battle until my last minute ticks off the clock in this uniform,” Hutchison said. “... It’s tough to go down in this way where you’ve kind of got some higher expectations and want to make a run in a tournament like this that we were clearly capable of doing, but you can’t focus on that too much.
“I enjoyed these last moments with my guys and my coaches.”
Notes: Washington (21-12) advances to play Saint Mary’s (29-5) in the second round of the NIT on Monday. ... Boise State senior forward Chris Sengfelder added a double-double of 15 points and 14 rebounds. ... Sophomore Justinian Jessup made three 3-pointers against the Huskies, bringing his season total to 90 — two short of tying the Broncos’ single-season record. ... Boise State finished the season with 307 made 3-pointers, which is a single-season record. ... Hutchison’s 87 career wins is tied for the most in program history with Mikey Thompson (2012-16).