BOISE — The roles looked familiar, the score about right. No. 12 UNLV roared out to a 12-0 start Wednesday at Taco Bell Arena, as Boise State, losers of four straight, missed its first seven shots.
Then something changed.
The home-standing Broncos got a spark, led by sophomore forward Thomas Bropleh. They slowed down the Runnin’ Rebels fast-paced attack and their own shots started falling. Until regulation ended, Boise State played inspired basketball, but that energy was spent in the 36 minutes after that dreadful start. Out of gas, the Broncos fell 77-72 in overtime as the Runnin’ Rebels avoided the stunner.
“I was so proud of the way our guys battled — they gave everything they had,” Boise State coach Leon Rice said.
Boise State (10-9, 0-4 MWC) took the lead back three times in the game and a steal by freshman guard Derrick Marks gave the Broncos the ball with 30 seconds to play, tied 64-64. Marks dribbled near half court and drove to the basket with about eight seconds to go. Guarded well, he tried to find Bropleh in the corner for a 3-pointer, but it was blocked by UNLV forward Mike Moser, sending it into overtime.
“I saw Thomas was open in the corner, so I just passed it there, but unfortunately the dude blocked it,” Marks said.
In overtime, the Broncos, who held a 42-41 rebounding edge in regulation, could not grab possession when they needed it. UNLV (19-3, 3-1 MWC) outrebounded the Broncos 4-0 in the first two minutes of overtime, allowing just one Bronco possession while taking a 67-64 lead. It wasn’t until a Marks layup with 22 seconds to go that Boise State got a field goal in the extra period.
“They played with a lot of emotion and a lot of heart,” Rice said. “I definitely think fatigue was a factor.”
Seven Broncos played 21 minutes or more, including Marks (37 minutes), who had a game-high 21 points, pulled down six rebounds, had four assists and two steals. Rice called his game “terrific.” Bropleh added 17 points and a career-high 13 rebounds off the bench.
“I was just trying to give a good effort for my teammates, do whatever it takes to win,” he said. “We put our blood, sweat and tears into practice every day. We’re going to continue to work hard. I’m proud of this team, what we did (Wednesday).”
Even with an extra five minutes, the Broncos held the Rebels to below their season average of 81 points, allowing them to make 24-of-69 shots from the field (34.8 percent). In the final 6:21 of regulation, however, UNLV was 4-of-7 on 3-pointers and led 64-59 before the Broncos got an Anthony Drmic 3-pointer and two Marks free throws to send it to overtime.
“We’re still learning how to play with it being a huge game for the other team — and it was a big game for Boise State,” UNLV coach Dave Rice said. “We started playing Runnin’ Rebel basketball late in the second half. We were terrific in overtime and we made big plays to get out of here with a win.”
Moser, who Dave Rice said was ill prior to the game, had 18 points, 21 rebounds and two blocks.
Now the Broncos will need to respond to another tough loss against a 16-4 Wyoming team. The close loss, which no one would call a moral victory, was enough for the Broncos to show they can compete in one of the toughest conferences in the country.
“That right there shows exactly what the team is capable of,” Marks said.
UNLV 66, BOISE STATE 50: The Broncos struggled with foul trouble and turnovers throughout the game in Las Vegas, falling to 11-10 overall and 2-3 in Mountain West Conference play.
Lauren Lenhardt score 17 of her team-high 19 points in the second half to lead the Broncos.