Boise State had one of its best shooting halves in recent history as it exploded to a 50-34 lead.
They then proceeded to go ice cold in the second half, not making a single triple until the final few minutes.
The three-pointer giveth, and the three-pointer taketh.
The Broncos learned that over the course of 45 minutes.
Key Teams Stats of the Night
Boise State - 36
UNLV - 32
Field Goal Percentage
Boise State - 51.7%
UNLV - 43.9%
Boise State - 46.4%
UNLV - 43.8%
Naje Smith (BSU) - 18 points
Justin Webster and EJ Harkless (UNLV) - 18 points
Tyson Degenhart and Marcus Shaver Jr. (BSU) - 8 rebounds
David Muoka (UNLV) - 8 rebounds
Marcus Shaver Jr. (BSU) - 5 assists
EJ Harkless (UNLV) - 7 assists
Story of the Game
Boise State wasted no time torching the nets in Las Vegas, converting four three-pointers in the first three minutes to jump out to a 12-3 lead. As the Rebels found their footing, Chibuzo Agbo found his rhythm as he contributed seven straight points, including a four-point play reminiscent of the Broncos’ first meeting with UNLV back in January.
The Bronco lead continued to grow and thanks to three-pointers by Agbo, Degenhart and Rice, Boise State found themselves with their biggest margin of the game, up 22 with 2:17 left in the first half.
Despite dominating the opening 20 minutes, UNLV managed an 8-2 run in the final two minutes to trim the deficit to 16.
Bronco fans loved the offensive onslaught and Rebel fans wondered whether Leon Rice’s squad was going to cool down.
UNLV got their wish.
Out of halftime, it was apparent that UNLV head coach Kevin Kruger lit into his team and wanted them to not go down without a fight. A Rebel 18-6 run cut the deficit tremendously, bringing them back to within four with just over 12 minutes to go.
A clean slate for UNLV.
After the Rebels stormed back, the game remained closely-contested as minutes ticked away. Rebel Justin Webster hit multiple shots from beyond the arc and at the 4:02 mark, UNLV vaulted ahead for the first time all game via an EJ Harkless and-one. Boise State needed a response and energizer Naje Smith, a player with one of the funkiest releases in college basketball, delivered with a triple that regained the lead for the Broncos.
A few successful trips at the charity stripe would have sealed a win for Boise State and sent them to the Mountain West semifinal.
Alas, the Broncos went 2/5 at the free throw line in the final three minutes and left the door open.
Out of a UNLV timeout, Harkless put up a difficult three that missed everything, but Shane Nowell happened to be in the right spot. He collected the ball in the corner and put up a prayer of a three as time expired.
Boise State 73 - UNLV 73
The entertainment that infested the final minutes of regulation did not transfer to overtime as UNLV’s legs gave way. The Broncos set the tone early and, most importantly, made all six of their free throws in the last minute.
Not the way you draw it up, but a gut-check win nonetheless.
BOISE STATE BRONCOS 87
UNLV RUNNIN’ REBELS 76
MOUNTAIN WEST TOURNAMENT
All four quarterfinal matchups lived up to their billing, including two overtime matchups and a near full-court buzzer beater that clipped the iron. San Diego State avoided an upset loss to Isaiah Stevens and Colorado State while San Jose State may have eliminated Nevada’s hopes of an at-large bid into the NCAA tournament. In the nightcap, Utah State was on fire as they sent New Mexico packing and likely to a NIT appearance.
San Diego State is currently facing San Jose State in semifinal #1 and Boise State will take on Utah State at 10:00 p.m. MT on CBS Sports Network (CBSSN). The Broncos split the season series and lost their regular season finale in Logan, 86-73.
Boise State is inching up the seed lines, now a projected nine seed on Bracket Matrix. Granted, they are narrowly ahead of ten seed Auburn (9.29 vs 9.30), but a win against the Aggies could solidify them in the 8/9 range.
The main takeaway is that the Broncos’ win against UNLV officially makes them a lock for the NCAA tournament.
Watch tonight’s game with a nice adult beverage and relax, knowing that Boise State will be dancing come Sunday.
Look for daily updates as Boise State attempts to repeat as tournament champions and improve their seeding come Selection Sunday.