SEATTLE – The Huskies came full circle Wednesday.
The Washington men’s basketball team began the postseason against the same team they played five months ago – before the season began.
Back then, during a closed-door scrimmage in October, Boise State reportedly torched a UW team that was still getting accustomed to first-year coach Mike Hopkins.
But as Matisse Thybulle noted before their rematch, “We’re a completely different team.”
No. 5 seed Washington overcame several miscues in the final minutes and a 39-point performance from Broncos star Chandler Hutchinson to beat No. 4 Boise State 77-74 in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament at Alaska Airlines Arena.
The Huskies (21-12) will face No. 1 seed Saint Mary’s in the second round. The game is 8 p.m. Monday at Saint Mary’s in Moraga, California.
With All-Pac-12 forward Noah Dickerson (13 points) handcuffed for most of the night with double-teams, Jaylen Nowell (25 points) and Thybulle (18) led the way and made all of the big baskets for Washington.
The Huskies looked as if they delivered an early knockout when they held the Broncos to 1-for-12 shooting in the second quarter while outscoring BSU 20-9 in the period and taking a 36-21 lead at halftime.
Washington continued the offensive onslaught in the third quarter when Nowell connected with Thybulle for an alley-oop dunk that put UW ahead 45-29 with 5:03 left in the third quarter.
Everything changed for the Huskies the rest of the way in the third as Boise State outscored UW 24-12 and cut the Huskies’ 17-point lead to 48-45 heading into the fourth.
The Broncos never got any closer, but they didn’t go away easily.
BSU cut UW’s lead to 51-48 early in the quarter.
Nowell lofted a 3-pointer that rolled around the rim before falling through the net and giving UW a 56-48 lead with 6:28 left.
Thybulle gave the Huskies some breathing room with a four-point play that included a 3-pointer and a free throw that put UW up 64-52.
Nowell hit six free throws in an 11-5 spurt that pushed the lead to 75-65 with 44 seconds left.
Hutchison scored the Broncos’ final seven points in a 9-2 run and a tie-up on a Washington inbounds pass gave Boise State possession, trailing 77-74 with 3 seconds left. Lexus Williams’ potential tying 3-point attempt was blocked and his second 3 was off as time expired.
Hutchinson, who could be the first Boise State player taken in the first round of the NBA draft this summer, kept the Broncos in the game with 39 points – an NIT high for a UW opponent.
Hutchinson added 14 rebounds, and Chris Sengfelder added 15 points and 14 rebounds for Boise State.
Thybulle, a junior who is already Washington’s career steals leader, moved into third – behind Jason Kidd and Gary Payton – on the Pac-12’s single-season list with 97.