BOISE — Before it celebrated its overtime win Saturday night at Taco Bell Arena, the Boise State men's basketball team had to watch UNLV do it first.
An all-too-familiar feeling of anguish filled Taco Bell Arena as UNLV mobbed Deville Smith following his apparent game-winner at the buzzer after the Broncos took a 91-90 lead with 3.3 seconds to play.
The Boise State men's basketball team stood shellshocked, along with the crowd of 9,010. Leading scorer Anthony Drmic couldn't stand to watch, bee-lining to the locker room.
Just that feeling of them rushing on the court, tackling each other, it was like, Here we go again, senior Ryan Watkins said.
I thought it counted, so I was crushed, said junior Derrick Marks, the would-be hero who had 13 points in overtime.
Twice in the prior six games at Taco Bell Arena, the visiting team had defeated Boise State with a last-second shot.
But not on Saturday.
Smiths buzzer-beater was waved off after a few minutes of review, giving Boise State the 91-90 overtime win, the Broncos third straight. Coach Leon Rice, after meeting with referees who said the shot was after the buzzer, crouched down and thrust both fists in the air in celebration, sending the crowd wild before the referees made it official.
Its like being in a murder trial and Im the defendant and I have to wait for the guilty or not guilty, Rice said. Ive never seen a basketball game, that Ive been involved in, end like that.
The review showed the ball had not quite left Smiths hand as it was fired up.
Im 1,000 percent sure it was on his fingertips, referee Randy McCall said.
Boise State (18-9, 8-6), which had trailed 74-66 with 3 minutes, 35 seconds to play, stormed back to force overtime with two Ryan Watkins free throws that made it 78-78 with 35.6 seconds left. A Smith jumper with 2 seconds left in regulation missed, and the Rebels (17-10, 8-6) couldnt put it back.
Marks, who had just four points in regulation, scored all 13 of the Broncos points in the extra frame, including a fadeaway jumper with 3.3 seconds left that would prove to be the real game-winner.
My teammates told me it was my time, and even though I had a bad 40 minutes, I had a good five minutes in me, said Marks, who was 5-for-5 from the field in overtime.
The Broncos had led by 11 with 3:48 to play on Feb. 1 at UNLV before losing 73-69. This time, Boise State was on the other side of heartbreak.
This team, weve been through so much heartbreak that were not satisfied, Watkins said. We know now, no matter how much were down with 5 minutes left, we can still come back, because weve been in a position where weve been up and came back on. We know weve got to keep fighting, and thats what we did.
Be it Marks late heroics, Watkins 22 points and 15 rebounds or Drmics 22 points, the Broncos had no shortage of standout performances.
I challenged my guys with about 8 minutes to go, and they responded, Rice said of his team, which was down 66-57 with 8:21 left. all our guys stepped up and made huge plays. Without them, we dont win.
To force overtime, the Broncos allowed one field goal in the last 4:21, while Drmic had seven points in that span, including a 3-pointer with 46 seconds left that made it 78-76.
It just shows how much weve grown as a team, Marks said. We all knew we didnt want to lose that game, we just dug down deep, played that much harder and came out on top.
Saturdays win, coupled with a Wyoming loss, creates a three-way tie for third place in the Mountain West with Boise State, UNLV and Wyoming all at 8-6 in league play, a proposition that seemed far out even two weeks ago.
Weve battled our way back to where we want to be, Rice said.
Dave Southorn: 377-6420, Twitter: @IDS_Southorn