Boise State men's basketball turns tables, rallies to beat UNLV

Apparent buzzer-beater goes up after the horn, giving the Broncos the overtime win over UNLV.

dsouthorn@idahostatesman.comFebruary 23, 2014 


    LAS VEGAS — Lexie Der scored 19 points, and Deanna Weaver hit a late 3-pointer to lock up the Broncos' 75-72 victory over the Rebels on Saturday to maintain sole possession of second place in the conference.

    UNLV (10-16, 7-7 MW) went 29-of-36 from the free-throw line, while the Broncos were just 7-of-13, but Boise State (15-10, 10-4) pulled down 21 offensive rebounds, including 16 in the second half. Weaver finished with 14 points, and Yaiza Rodriguez Ortego had 11.

— 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.

Smith’s 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.

“It’s like being in a murder trial and I’m the defendant and I have to wait for the ‘guilty or not guilty,’ ” Rice said. “I’ve never seen a basketball game, that I’ve been involved in, end like that.”

The review showed the ball had not quite left Smith’s hand as it was fired up.

“I’m 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) couldn’t 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, we’ve been through so much heartbreak that we’re not satisfied,” Watkins said. “… We know now, no matter how much we’re down with 5 minutes left, we can still come back, because we’ve been in a position where we’ve been up and came back on. We know we’ve got to keep fighting, and that’s what we did.”

Be it Marks’ late heroics, Watkins’ 22 points and 15 rebounds or Drmic’s 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 don’t 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 we’ve grown as a team,” Marks said. “We all knew we didn’t want to lose that game, we just dug down deep, played that much harder and came out on top.”

Saturday’s 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.

“We’ve battled our way back to where we want to be,” Rice said.

Dave Southorn: 377-6420, Twitter: @IDS_Southorn

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