Nevada, fresh off a 79-72 win over No. 9 New Mexico Wednesday, was within a possession of the Broncos for the final 1:31 with an opportunity to tie or take the lead. Three combined scoreless possessions from both teams gave the Wolf Pack possession with 12 seconds to.
Nevada’s Kenan Blackshear, who had an open look from distance at the right wing, clanked it off the back of the rim as time ran out. The miss came after the Pack missed three free throws over the last three minutes — two from Blackshear after a flagrant was called on Boise State’s Abu Kigab and one additional free throw from Desmond Cambridge on the front-end of a one-and-one — and three of their final four baskets over the last 1:34.
The Wolf Pack were within reach for most of the game. They raced out to a 22-15 lead after knocking down nine of their first 11 attempts across the first 7:45. Nevada got the lead to as big as eight with 9:46 remaining in the opening half.
Boise State countered with a 14-0 run to take a 34-28 lead with 4:34 remaining before halftime. Nevada’s scoreless streak lasted 5:42 before a Cambridge triple stemmed the tide, but it still missed five of its 19 final first half attempts and entered halftime down 38-33.
The Broncos put together a 10-0 run to widen it to 58-46 with 11:35 left — their biggest lead of the afternoon. The Wolf Pack eventually responded with a 9-1 run of its own, cutting it to four with 6:36 remaining, but could not climb over the hill to tie or take the lead.
Nevada was led by Grant Sherfield, who had 25 points — 17 in the second half — on 10-of-20 shooting with six assists. Cambridge added 16 points on 6-of-14 shooting with three triples while Warren Washington totaled 13 points with five boards in 25 minutes.
Cambridge is Nevada’s lone senior on its roster — he’s their best 3-point shooter (by far), arguably their best defender (how did he not make the All-Defensive team again?), one of the top scorers and shot creators. He still has one more year left of eligibility if he elects to stay for another year or play elsewhere. Each of Nevada’s other players are eligible to return if they choose to.
Boise State shot 50.0 percent and 42.9 percent from distance, out-rebounding the Pack 36-27 and finishing with just two more points in the paint. Emmanuel Akot led the Broncos with 22 points, knocking down eight of his 15 shots and 4-of-8 from distance. Marcus Shaver finished with 15 points and eight boards; All-Conference and All-Defensive honoree Abu Kigab registered 11 points on 5-of-11 shooting with six assists, one block and a steal.
Thursday’s win comes after the Wolf Pack bounced the Broncos from the tourney in two of their last three seasons. Nevada’s season ends at 13-18 — its fifth season finishing below .500 since 2009-10 — including an 0-11 black eye against the conference’s top-5 and a bleak 2-16 record against Quad 1 or 2 opponents.
Boise State, however, advances to the semifinal round with a chance to advance to its first Mountain West Championship since joining the conference prior to the 2011-12 season. It will face the winner between Wyoming-UNLV (TBA at time of publishing).