BOISE – The excitement and momentum the Boise State men’s basketball team had built following a pair of impressive wins against Colorado State and Nevada came screeching to a stop Tuesday with a disappointing 68-64 home loss to UNLV.
The loss is considered a Quad 3 loss and the worst of the season for the Broncos (12-5, 3-1 MW), who saw their nation-leading 22-game homecourt winning streak snapped in the process.
“We just didn’t have a good start,” Boise Sate forward Tyson Degenhart said. “And we just couldn’t recover from it.”
The Broncos seemed slower to loose balls, not as energized on the defensive end and had trouble keeping the Rebels off the glass. The Rebels got 31 of their 68 points on second-chance points (16) and points-off-turnovers (15) – mostly the result of hustle and effort plays.
“They wanted it more than us,” Degenhart said. “They just made more plays than us. Their tenacity on the glass, getting every loose ball – they were getting to every ball and we weren’t and that was the difference in the game.”
Boise State trailed by 10 points midway through the first half. They briefly took the lead late in the half but trailed 36-34 at the break. UNLV led for nearly the entire second half and hung on thanks in part to Boise State missing three key free throws in the final four minutes – including two on the front end of one-and-ones.
Degenhart finished with 24 points to lead the Broncos, but he missed two key free throws late – one of which was on the front end of a one-and-one with 3:29 remaining. O’Mar Stanley also missed the front-end with the Broncos trailing 61-59.
The Broncos then allowed a late offensive rebound and bucket from UNLV with 1:11 left to put the Rebels up 63-59 and essentially seal the game.
“There’s two things that don’t last – dogs that chase cars and teams that don’t make free throws,” Boise State coach Leon Rice said. “You have to make free throws down the stretch and we missed two front ends and with guys – there’s no one I’d rather have at the line.
“You have to play at a high level every night to win games in this league. … You have to give UNLV a lot of credit. They came in here and were tough. They were tough the first 10 minutes and they came out and really got after us and set the tone. Give them a ton of credit.”
Chibuzo Agbo had 14 points, all in the first half, and Max Rice finished with 10 for the Broncos, who got just seven points each from Stanley and Anderson.
Boise State got just two points from its bench on the night. The bench has contributed just 15 total points in four conference games.
Four starters played at least 34 minutes for the game and four played at least 18 minutes in the second half. The bench has contributed little of late – something that needs to change for the Broncos moving forward.
For now the win is considered a bad one for the Broncos, but UNLV could rise enough in the metrics to help soften the blow. The Rebels already beat New Mexico and could have beaten Utah State and proved again Tuesday they are a threat to win on any given night.
“They are very talented, up and down the roster,” Degenhart said. “They can compete with anyone in this conference.”
UNLV wasn’t one of the better rebounding teams in the league and the Broncos were – even though you’d never know it on Tuesday. Boise State gave up 13 offensive rebounds, which led to 16 UNLV second-chance points.
A crowd of just 9,863 was mostly quiet except for some big moments in the second half. The second and third levels were mostly empty on a cold, snowy night in Boise with a later than usual 8 p.m. start time.
Sure the Broncos didn’t give them much to cheer about, but the energy was noticeably less in the stands than eight days earlier when the Broncos topped No. 17 Colorado State at home. Fans may have been looking past the Rebels, but Rice said that wasn’t the case for the team.
“There was no underestimating them,” Rice said. “There was none of that. Maybe with the fans other people were talking about things down the road, but we weren’t. They just came in and played a tough game and we knew it would be tough and we had our chances…and we just didn’t get it done.
“The team that wins this league could have four losses, maybe even more. It’s a league where anybody can beat somebody on a given night if they play well.”
Boise State is currently a half-game behind Utah State for first place in the conference.
Things won’t get any easier for the Broncos with San Diego State coming to town on Saturday. The game, which now feels like a near must-win for the Broncos, tips off at 11 a.m. on CBS.