The closer the game, the better.
There’s no fear of losing for the Boise State men’s basketball team. There’s no running from the moment. There’s no angst when the shot clock starts approaching zero.
Just a sense of calm and confidence that the job will get done.
“You’re not going to play the best game every night. We are going to be in some battles,” Boise State coach Leon Rice said. “The guys allow us to coach them. They are developing toughness that I love.”
That toughness was on display New Year’s Eve against Colorado State. In a back-and-forth game at Taco Bell Arena that featured eight lead changes, the Broncos trailed with less than five seconds remaining after Braden Koelliker hit an off-balance jumper to give the Rams a 73-71 lead.
Undeterred, Chandler Hutchison dribbled down the floor and banked a game-winning 3-pointer over Gian Cavell and sent the Broncos into a frenzy.
“We focus on special situations in practice. We always stick together, and we knew from the beginning that we would win this game,” Hutchison said. “Coach told us that we would hit a 3 to win the game.”
Boise State (9-4, 2-0 Mountain West), which has won five in a row, has played 13 games this season. Five of those have been decided by five points or less. After losing the first two games under such circumstances, the Broncos have won the last three, including their past two games against Utah State (83-80) and Colorado State (74-73).
“You don’t get bonus points for how many you win them by,” Rice said. “You just have to find a way.”
And with a tough Mountain West schedule that doesn’t feature a dominant team, the likelihood of more tight contests is likely.
Boise State’s season continues at UNLV on Wednesday and against defending regular-season Mountain West champion San Diego State on Saturday at Taco Bell Arena. Both games start at 9 p.m.
UNLV, despite a coaching change during last season and another one in the offseason, is off to a surprisingly strong start. The Runnin’ Rebels (8-7, 1-1) lost to Colorado State in their conference opener and defeated Wyoming 81-75 on Saturday.
The Broncos went 1-1 against UNLV last season, with each team winning at home.
UNLV is led by head coach Marvin Menzies, formerly of New Mexico State. Menzies took the Aggies to the NCAA Tournament five times in nine seasons. The Runnin’ Rebels, winners of the 1990 national championship under coach Jerry Tarkanian, have not been to the NCAA Tournament since 2013.
Sophomore guard Jalen Poyser leads the Runnin’ Rebels in scoring (14.3)on 41.6 shooting. Senior forward Tyrell Green averages 13.3 points and 6.2 rebounds, while St. John’s transfer Christian Jones leads the team with 7 rebounds per game despite missing eight contests with an ankle injury.
The Runnin’ Rebels average 73.3 points per game and surrender 74.5, which ranks eighth and last in the Mountain West, respectively.
Though a potentially epic matchup with San Diego State lurks around the corner, Boise State would do best not to overlook UNLV. So far this season, the Broncos have done a good job of focusing on the task at hand and not looking ahead.
And if the game is close as the clock winds down Wednesday evening? Rice believes his team will always have a shot, literally and figuratively.
“I’m really, really proud of our guys, and it’s a great sign when they can find ways to (win),” Rice said.
BSU (9-4, 2-0) at UNLV (8-7, 1-1)
▪ When: 9 p.m. MT Wednesday
▪ Where: Thomas & Mack Center (18,000), Las Vegas
▪ Radio: KBOI 670 AM (Bob Behler and Abe Jackson). Fans can also listen to the game at BroncoSports.com.
▪ TV: CBS Sports Network (Cable One 139/1139, DirecTV 221, Dish 158)
▪ Series: UNLV leads 7-6
BSU women host UNLV on Wednesday night
The Broncos (12-1, 2-0 Mountain West) have won four straight since falling at Washington in mid-December, the latest a 51-45 victory over preseason Mountain West favorite Colorado State on Saturday in Fort Collins.
Leading scorer Brooke Pahukoa led the Broncos with 20 points in 24 minutes. She scored four points in her return to the lineup against Utah State on Dec. 29 after missing two games with a foot injury.
Boise State, which received five votes in this week’s AP Top 25 poll, hosts UNLV at Taco Bell Arena at 7 p.m. Wednesday. The Lady Rebels (9-5, 0-2) have lost conference games against Colorado State and Wyoming by 20 points each. Three UNLV players average double-figures in scoring, led by Dakota Gonzalez’s 12.2.