In a basketball game that featured four lead changes and seven ties, Boise State lost control of its own destiny and could only watch as Nevada cashed in its fortunes from the free throw line in the game’s final moments.
The Broncos led by double-digits in the second half Wednesday night at the Lawlor Events Center but couldn’t keep up in a back-and-forth battle over the final 10 minutes and fell to Nevada 85-77. The loss sends the Broncos (17-9, 10-5) into third place in the Mountain West standings.
Nevada shot 29 free throws in the second half, with 15 of those coming from Marcus Marshall, who led Nevada with 26 points. Marshall made 11 free throws in the final 4:15 to secure the victory for the Wolf Pack (22-6, 11-4), who are tied with Colorado State (19-9, 11-4) for the MW lead.
Overall, Nevada was 30-of-34 from the line, 27-of-29 in the second half and 13-of-14 in the final five minutes. BSU was 11-of-16 from the line in the game.
“It’s tough to overcome 29 free throws in the second half. And they made them, too,” Boise State coach Leon Rice said. “A team shoots 29 free throws in a half. That’s a lot. ... (It) makes you scratch your head.’’
Cameron Oliver had 16 second-half points for Nevada, who swept the regular season series with the Broncos for the first time since 2010. The Wolf Pack made one field goal over the final seven minutes but scored 22 points.
The Broncos trailed by one point with 3:23 remaining but were outscored 14-7 the remainder of the game. Chandler Hutchison’s 3-pointer with 40 seconds left made it a four-point game for Boise State, who own sole possession of third place going into Saturday’s home game against San Jose State (14-12, 7-8).
The Broncos went 12-for-20 from 3-point range but were outrebounded 33-29.
Senior Nick Duncan and Hutchison led Boise State with 19 points each, a season-high for Duncan, who added seven rebounds despite battling a cold. Zach Haney, who had played two minutes the previous three games, scored 13 off the bench while freshman Alex Hobbs added seven points in eight minutes. The Broncos’ bench outscored Nevada’s 22-2.
“I was really proud of our guys. They came here and they competed. They came here to win this game, and they’re disappointed they didn’t get it done,” Rice said.
Boise State used its fifth different starting lineup of the season as Rice opted to start sophomore Paris Austin and senior James Reid and sit freshman Justinian Jessup, who started the previous 25 games. Austin scored nine points while Jessup was held scoreless on his two field goal attempts.
“Paris has been playing great,” Rice said. “We needed his athleticism and quickness against these guys and (to) give him as many minutes.”
Boise State’s weapon of choice in the first half was the 3-pointer. The Broncos were 8-of-12 from deep, including three from Duncan, who led the team with nine points in the first half. Duncan scored 19 points in the previous three games combined.
“I think the tail end of my slump was all confidence,” Duncan said. “I was putting up the reps. I was just thinking about the shot too much."
Though it trailed for more than 17 minutes in the first half, BSU led at halftime 41-33 after ending the half on a 10-0 run. Hobbs scored five straight points before Duncan hit a 3-pointer and capped off the halftime scoring with a buzzer-beating tip-in that was originally ruled a shot-clock violation. Duncan was awarded the basket after halftime, just seconds before the second half began.
“I thought we had it the whole way. I thought at the end, we were going to come through,” Duncan said.
Ultimately, though, it was Nevada’s trio of Marshall, Oliver and Jordan Caroline who made the difference once halftime came to a close. The three combined to score 43 of the Wolf Pack’s 52 points in the second half. Oliver and Caroline each scored 21 points as Nevada shot 48 percent from the field.
Duncan admitted that Wednesday’s loss stings, especially given how close the Broncos came to pulling out a victory. Boise State remains confident, however, that it can still win the Mountain West, whether that be in the regular season or in the upcoming tournament.
“These are always going to hurt and be in the back of your mind, but you just have to move on as quick as you can,” Duncan said. “Hopefully this fuels some fire in us and gets us motivated to get better and win this Mountain West tourney. ... That Mountain West tourney is up for grabs, and we’re going to go down there and win that.”
Other than a few missed shots and untimely turnovers, Rice was overall pleased with his team’s performance. Though the defeat is a blow to their championship aspirations, the Broncos have been resilient throughout the season after difficult losses.
Rice said he expects nothing different this time.
“They can be crushed tonight. I’d be concerned if they weren’t crushed,” Rice said. “The best thing they’ve done all year is the way they respond, to the good, the bad, everything. They always respond. So we’re going to make sure that happens.”
BSU hosts San Jose State at 2 p.m. Saturday.
Boise State women rally to beat Nevada
The Broncos came back from a five-point deficit in the fourth quarter to defeat the Wolf Pack 77-74 on Wednesday night at Taco Bell Arena. Boise State (19-7, 9-6 Mountain West) has won four straight games; Nevada drops to 10-16, 4-11.
Trailing 66-61 with 7:01 remaining, Boise State went on a 7-0 run to take a 68-66 lead on Yaiza Rodriguez’s third and final 3-pointer. The teams traded five leads over the next two and a half minutes before Boise State’s Marijke Vanderschaaf hit a short jumper to put the Broncos up for good at 73-72 with 2:57 remaining.
Boise State put the game away by hitting 4-of-6 free throws down the stretch, including two by Rodriguez with four seconds left.
Rodriguez led Boise State with 15 points, while Vanderschaaf and Brooke Pahukoa each added 14. Vanderschaaf added a team-high seven rebounds and career-high five blocks.
Boise State plays at San Jose State (10-17, 7-8) at 3 p.m. Saturday.
"Twenty wins is the mark of a good season in college basketball. Hopefully we can win that number 20 the next time out at San Jose State,'' Boise State coach Gordy Presnell said.