Despite Boise States three seniors doing everything they could to avoid it, late-game heartbreak came around for one more gut punch Wednesday at Taco Bell Arena.
The Broncos, who trailed Nevada by as much as 14 in the first half, fought to force overtime. And double overtime.
But like final-basket losses to Wyoming and San Diego State earlier this year, there was another close setback for the regular-season home finale, this one an 83-81 loss to the Wolf Pack in double overtime.
I just wanted to send them out the right way so bad, and what a great way it wouldve been to send them out that way. But I guess it just wasnt meant to be, Boise State coach Leon Rice said.
Boise State fell to 19-11 overall, 9-8 in Mountain West play. Nevada improved to 14-16 and 9-8.
On a night where the Broncos seniors Ryan Watkins, Jeff Elorriaga and Thomas Bropleh were honored, they made the biggest impacts.
Watkins had a career-high 27 points and added 14 rebounds in 46 minutes. He became the 25th 1,000-point scorer in school history in the process. Elorriaga had 15 points on five 3-pointers, his best scoring output since Dec. 14. Bropleh had seven points and eight rebounds, hitting a 3-pointer at the buzzer to force the second overtime.
Its senior night, you want to go out with a bang, Watkins said. At the same time, just because we lost, we cant be selfish. Weve got to still be seniors for this team, pick everyone back up and get back at it.
A bit of recovery will be needed for a team that saw one of its greatest strengths disappear late. The Broncos led 62-57 with 3 minutes to play, but missed 4-of-4 free throws to end regulation as Nevada tied it with 2:06 to play. Among the misses were the front end of two 1-and-1s, and a pair of misses by Derrick Marks with 11 seconds to play, tied 62-62. Boise State came into this week ranked 13th in the nation in free throw percentage (75.7 percent).
It was timely free throws, really, Rice said. We had a lead by five and we missed a lot of free throws in that stretch. Weve been such a clutch, good free-throw shooting team, and thats what youve got to be able to do.
As strong as the Broncos seniors were, Nevadas senior scoring machine, Deonte Burton, won it for the Wolf Pack.
Burton was held to seven points when the Broncos last met the Wolf Pack on Jan. 14 in Reno, but he had 25 on Wednesday, including 11 in overtime and double overtime after missing a potential game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer in regulation.
He killed us in the last two overtimes, Elorriaga said.
For the third straight game, the Broncos trailed by at least 10 in the first 10 minutes, getting down 20-10 and behind by as much as 24-10 with 8:56 to go in the first half. The Broncos shot 25.8 percent from the field in the first half, but were a blistering 62.5 percent in the second half, roaring back to take the lead with 9:36 to go and not trailing again until overtime.
As great as it is to fight back, we cant keep doing that, we cant keep getting into these big deficits, because it comes back to bite us, Watkins said. It kind of did tonight, because if we didnt spot them 10 points, who knows what could happen?
A bye in next weeks Mountain West Tournament is still within reach for the Broncos in their regular-season finale Saturday at Air Force. Then the focus turns to truly having the seniors finish the right way.
We know we have to win the conference tournament if we want to go to the NCAA (Tournament), Elorriaga said.