RENO, Nev. - A season that started with expectations of 'NCAA Tournament or bust' is starting to head in the wrong direction for the Boise State men's basketball team.
This weekend in Reno the Broncos could have established themselves as the top team in the Mountain West and taken a big step towards both a Mountain West championship and a spot in the Big Dance.
It couldn't have gone any worse.
The Broncos lost both games to Nevada at the Lawlor Events Center - the score Sunday was 73-62 - to drop a full game behind Utah State in the league standings. Maybe more importantly the Broncos' NCAA Tournament resume took a big hit as well.
Boise State has six games remaining, including four at home, and needs to win all six to assure themselves of finishing at least tied for the league title.
"The expectations are still high," Boise State coach Leon Rice told the Idaho Press. "We have a lot of big games left. When the dust settles the league champ is probably going to have three or four losses. We're in it, but we have to be better. We're in it, but now the margin for error is gone. I think there's a lot of good teams and this team (Nevada) is certainly one of them."
Grant Sherfield strengthened his case for Mountain West Player of the Year, scoring 29 points, grabbing eight rebounds and dishing out six assists Sunday to lead the Wolf Pack to an impressive two-game sweep of the Broncos.
Boise State didn't play terrible in the two games - they led for much of Friday night and had a game-winning shot rim out at the buzzer - but came away with nothing to show for it.
"We just had a tired look to us," Rice said. "I don't know if it was being out on the road for two weeks or what, but we didn't have the pep in our step we usually have."
Derrick Alston had 17 points to lead the Broncos, while Emmanuel Akot had 13 and Mladen Armus had 12.
Boise State trailed 39-33 early in the second half before a 6-0 tied the game at 39 on a bucket from Alston with 16:10 left. But Nevada responded with a 6-0 run to go up 45-39 and the Broncos never got the score even again.
One key? The Broncos went 19 of 27 from the foul line. Many of the eight missed free throws were on the front end of one-and-ones, resulting in potentially two points lost.
"It's a game that snuck away from us form the free throw line I thought," Rice said. "I think we missed four front-ends. That's 13 free throws we left off the board. Make your free throws, you keep it close."
Nevada led 32-31 at the half thanks to a Sherfield 3-pointer at the buzzer. The teams were whistled for 25 fouls in the first half, with 10 different players on the two teams being called for at least two fouls.
Boise State shot a season-low 34.6 percent from the field for the game. They also struggled for the second straight game on defense, allowing Nevada to shoot 47 percent for the game - and 52 percent in the second half.
"We looked a little sluggish," Rice said. "There was one play where they cleared a side for Sherfield and we had guys just standing there totally unaware and they let him drive right down the gut. That's inexcusable. We just didn't do our jobs tonight. We didn't do our jobs well enough.
"We haven't had many of these games, even the last game we battled and we fought and both teams made shots, but tonight...we were sluggish. The bottom line is we didn't do our jobs well enough."
Boise State is a full game behind Utah State in the league standings, but the Broncos still have two games against the Aggies coming up in Boise. Boise State hosts UNLV Thursday and Saturday this week before the Aggies come to town the next week. The Broncos finish the regular season with two games in San Diego, and a makeup game in Boise against Fresno State.
As bad as the last two weeks have been - the Broncos have lost three of the past four after a 10-0 start to conference play - they still control their own destiny. Win the final seven games and they can do no worse than earn a share of the regular season title.
"You're going to go through a valley of death and it's how you respond, how you react and how you come together as a team," Rice said. "We'll look at tweaking some things, changing some things and figure out who wants to do their jobs and can do it at the highest level and go from there.
"As long as the season is, you're going to have some peaks and valleys and we're in a valley and we have to fight ourselves out of it."
Boise State hosts UNLV Thursday night at 8 p.m. on CBS Sports Network.