LAS VEGAS - Nevada got a highlight reel slam the last time it played Boise State. The Wolf Pack tried for another Thursday, and its failure sparked the Broncos to a win.
On March 5 in a double-overtime win in Boise, Nevada's Deonte Burton earned the top spot on SportsCenter with his monster dunk on Ryan Watkins. On Thursday, he collided with teammate Jerry Evans Jr. going for an alley-oop early in the second half.
Boise State then turned the miss into a Jeff Elorriaga 3-pointer to start a 15-0 run and take a 47-34 lead. Nevada made its own run to take a lead for 19 seconds before Boise State closed strong for a 75-62 win at the Thomas & Mack Center.
The victory advances the Broncos to the Mountain West Tournament semifinals, where they will face second-seeded New Mexico (25-6) at 9:30 p.m. MT Friday, televised on CBS Sports Network.
"That was huge," Rice said of the missed dunk. "That was a big play, it was a momentum play. Usually you can't measure momentum, but I felt it right there."
Nevada coach David Carter could feel it, too.
"I thought that was a turning point," he said. "We never really recovered from there. Guys were bickering at each other. Never recovered."
Elorriaga's go-ahead 3-pointer prompted not only a drought for Nevada (15-17), but ended one for Boise State (21-12).
The Broncos had taken a 26-15 lead with 9:04 until halftime on an Anthony Drmic layup, but they missed their last nine shots of the half, going a total of 10:25 without a field goal until Elorriaga's shot.
Aided by Burton's 22 points, Nevada took advantage of some foul trouble and Bronco turnovers, taking a 57-56 lead with 5:59 to play on a Michael Perez layup, but Boise State's Thomas Bropleh hit a 3-pointer 19 seconds later to give the Broncos the lead for good. The Broncos closed on an 18-5 run to end the game.
For the first time this season against a Division I opponent, Boise State reached its goal of 40-30-6, holding a team under 40 percent on 2-point shots, 30 percent on 3-pointers and holding a plus-six rebounding edge. Nevada shot 36.1 percent on 2s, 25 percent on 3s, and outrebounded Nevada 38-29.
"I think we're starting to peak a little bit here at the right time defensively," Drmic said.
Drmic led Boise State with 17 points on a night where he was roughed up and worn out. Already dealing with a lingering foot injury, he took a knee to the ribs with 12:13 to play. He was taken off the floor, but returned two minutes later.
"I thought Drmic sparked that toughness in the second half," Rice said.
After going up 47-34, Boise State had nine turnovers in the next eight minutes, allowing Nevada to get back into the game before closing strong. In their two Mountain West Tournament games, the Broncos are holding teams to shoot 30.2 percent (35-of-116).
"We won that game with our defense," Rice said. "I think our guys got that point where we were playing pretty good 'D' and so they just came down and threw the ball out of bounds on purpose and said 'we don't care, we'll go guard you.' it was our defense that got us through that."
Ryan Watkins had 15 points and 10 rebounds for the Broncos in the win, and Derrick Marks added 16 points. The Broncos had 14 assists on their 19 field goals. They also made 28-of-35 free throws.
"When we play like that, we move the ball, we give everybody touches," Watkins said. "That's how we're tough to beat."
The Broncos face a Lobo squad they beat 71-70 in Boise on Feb. 12 in their last meeting, their first win against New Mexico in six tries. With a large fan contingent in tow, the Broncos know it will be a big challenge trying to knock off the two-time defending Mountain West Tournament champions.
"It feels good, but we know we've still got a long journey ahead, it's the cream of the crop now, the top teams in the conference and we know we have to play our best ball against these guys, because if they don't, they'll beat you," Elorriaga said.