BOISE — With Selection Sunday just four weeks away, the Boise State men’s basketball team may remember — and be thankful — for what happened late Saturday night inside ExtraMile Arena.
The Broncos overcame a six-point deficit late in the second half and avoided a potentially disastrous loss with a thrilling 61-59 win over the UNLV Rebels.
With the win Boise State coach Leon Rice became the winningest coach in program history. But maybe more importantly at this point in the season, the Broncos remained just one game behind Utah State in the loss column ahead of a huge series with the Aggies in Boise next week.
"Huge win for us - huge," Rice said. "Every win matters. We've got 16 wins and that puts us in the upper-echelon of the country as far as the amount of wins, and that was a big one."
Boise State trailed 55-50 with 4:22 left but rallied to take a 57-56 lead on a bucket from Devonaire Doutrive with 1:08 left. Mladen Armus made two free throws and Derrick Alston Jr. added one to give the Broncos a 60-56 lead with 20.7 seconds left.
But David Jenkins Jr. made a 3-pointer with 11.4 seconds to cut the Boise State lead to 60-59, and the inbounds pass from Emmanuel Akot was stolen to give the Rebels a chance at a game-winning shot.
Caleb Grill drove to baseline before pulling up for a contested shot with three seconds left, but strong defense from Doutrive forced the shot to miss and Doutrive grabbed the rebound with 0.2 seconds left.
"That was amazing," Doutrive said. "I tried to wall-up vertically the best I could and not commit a foul and that's what I did and I got the rebound and got fouled. That was big time."
Rice called Doutrive's bucket and ensuing stop "magical".
Alston had 27 points to lead the Broncos (16-4, 12-3 MW), while Doutrive added nine — none of which were bigger than his short shot in the lane to put the Broncos up with 68 seconds left.
It's been an up-and-down season for Doutrive, who debuted Jan. 6 against Air Force after sitting out due to NCAA transfer rules. The Arizona transfer has scored in double figures three times with the Broncos, but had just 11 total points in the last three games prior to Saturday.
But Doutrive was in the game in the final minutes and took advantage, putting together the type of moment - the game-winning shot and then the game-winning stop - that he dreamed of when he came to Boise State.
"It's special," Doutrive said. "Hitting the game winning shot, it's special. ... It was a win we needed to have. We just had to stick together and stay positive and do what we do."
Boise State led 43-35 on a 3-pointer from Alston with 12:22 left. But the Broncos didn’t score for more than six minutes and UNLV ripped off a 14-0 run to take a 49-43 lead with 6:15 left.
The scoring drought ended officially at 6:22 without a point when Alston hit a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to 49-46 with 6:08 left in the game. But the Broncos had trouble cutting further into the margin and trailed 55-50 after David Jenkins beat the shot clock with a bucket with 4:22 left.
That’s when the Broncos started maybe their most important final 4:22 of the season to date.
Two key plays down the stretch fueled Boise State's comeback. First, Armus grabbed an offensive rebound and scored with 1:43 left to tie the game at 55.
Then after Doutrive put the Broncos up 57-56, Emmanuel Akot blocked UNLV leading scorer Bryce Hamilton's shot with 43 seconds left. He slapped the floor and got into a defensive stance after Hamilton got the ball back and forced another miss from the left-handed shooter before Armus grabbed the rebound and was fouled with 33.1 seconds left.
"What a great job by our guys putting the wheels back on," Rice said. "I give DA a lot of credit. He was a great leader tonight and stayed calm and kind of just kept weathering the storm with the other guys and then the other guys got their stuff together.
"Credit UNLV. They came out and battled and they are a good team. ... But our guys just kept fighting and kept battling and what a credit to them. The wheels came off and we put them back on and were able to enough to finish the game."
The win was No. 214 for Rice in his 11 seasons as Boise State, moving him ahead of Bobby Dye’s record of 213 career wins. Dye, who coached from 1983-1995 while Boise State was in the Big Sky Conference, went 213-133 in his 12 seasons leading the Broncos.
Rice, who is 214-132 since taking over in 2010 after serving as an assistant coach at Gonzaga for 11 seasons, has led the Broncos to eight 20-win seasons and the only two at-large bids to the NCAA Tournament in program history.
"It's really special and a neat deal," Rice said. "It's humbling. You're passing up a legendary coach here and that's an amazing accomplishment to get to stay here as long as I have and get to coach the guys I get to coach and work with every day. It's pretty awesome.
"The 214 is not about me. It's about this program and all the guys that have had a piece of it."
The Broncos led for much of the first half, including 10-2 early on a 3-pointer from Akot. Doutrive scored, Alston hit a 3-pointer and Doutrive added another basket to put the Broncos up 22-16 with 8:25 remaining in the first half.
Alston hit another 3-pointer to put the Broncos up 25-18 with 6:54 left in the half. But the Broncos missed eight of their next nine shots and scored just two points the rest of the half and went into the locker room trailing 28-27 at the break.
The second half didn’t look much better for a while, before the late comeback made it a night to remember for Rice and the Broncos.
"It was crazy for sure," Alston said. "We were down but I don't think anybody lost faith. We've been in those situations before and we just had to respond and that's what we did. I'm just proud of everybody in that locker room being able to get this done. It was a big one we needed."
Boise State hosts first place Utah State Wednesday and Friday next week at ExtraMile Arena. Wednesday's game will start at 7 p.m. and air nationally on CBS Sports Network.