Nevada coach Eric Musselman took a kick at the advertising board near his bench after a Wolf Pack turnover late in the second half.
Boise State had the 10th-ranked Nevada men’s basketball team on edge and all 8,022 fans at Taco Bell Arena on their feet.
The high didn’t last.
When the Wolf Pack desperately needed a big shot, Cody Martin delivered.
The redshirt senior made a 3-pointer with 4.5 seconds left to assure Nevada a 72-71 victory over Boise State on Tuesday night in a Mountain West Conference matchup.
It was Martin’s first made triple since Dec. 15 against South Dakota State.
“We’ve got guys who are willing to take big shots, and obviously Cody stepped up,” Musselman said. “We wanted to take a three. We didn’t want to get a two. We didn’t want to tie it. We wanted to try to go for the win.
“Jazz (Johnson) was the first option, and Cody was the third option. They did a good job taking away Jazz, and we hit a huge shot.”
Boise State got the ball back with 4.5 seconds left after Martin’s shot. The Broncos’ first attempt to inbound the ball under Nevada’s basket was batted away by Caleb Martin. Justinian Jessup then received the inbounds pass on the second try along the sideline and hoisted a 3-point shot from about 40 feet out that bounced off the backboard.
“It was a stupid play on my part,” Jessup said. “I had probably a second and a half more to take another dribble and shoot it.”
The Broncos outscored the Wolf Pack 40-32 in the second half and finished the game with the advantage in rebounds (29-28), turnovers (9-14) and steals (7-4). They even recovered from a 12-point deficit in the first half and held Nevada to a season-low two offensive boards.
Reigning Mountain West Player of the Year Caleb Martin was limited to 18 minutes and 10 points — nine below his average — and was one of four Wolf Pack players to finish the game with four fouls.
“I think if you look at a month ago, where we were as a basketball team, how far we’ve come, it’s crazy,” said Jessup, referring to the Broncos’ 2-5 start. “I don’t think anybody expected us to even be in this game tonight, to be honest. Just to see the growth from our team — offensively, defensively from individuals — it just shows we can compete with anybody in the conference, and we’re going to continue to do that.”
The Broncos’ statistical advantages couldn’t make up for the wealth of big-game experience on the Wolf Pack roster. Nevada (17-1, 4-1 MW), which starts five redshirt seniors, advanced to the Sweet 16 last season with come-from-behind victories over Texas and Cincinnati.
Nevada started the season 13-0 and climbed as high as No. 6.
“They’re 17-1 for a reason. Those guys know how to win,” Boise State coach Leon Rice said. “I thought our guys did a great job of battling back and giving themselves a chance. (Nevada) made the winning play, like you know that they will. Well, we’ve got to be able to make our winning plays too, and we’re close.
“We’re getting better and better every time out.”
Junior guard Alex Hobbs led the Broncos (8-9, 3-1) with 19 points and seven rebounds. Hobbs scored the Broncos’ final four points, including a layup with 1:39 remaining in the game to put Boise State ahead 71-69. Jessup added 17 points, Derrick Alston had 14, and Marcus Dickinson had 11.
“This one hurts more, because as you can see we’ve kind of come along as a team,” said Hobbs, whose team lost four nonconference games by three points or fewer. “We’re a better team than we were in those past games when we were losing close games like that.”
Boise State plays at home again Saturday against Fresno State (12-4, 3-1). The Broncos’ Mountain West matchup against the Bulldogs tips off at 3:30 p.m. at Taco Bell Arena and will be televised on AT&T SportsNet. The two teams met just once last season, with the Broncos winning 70-64 in Fresno.
Women: Broncos prepare for title rematch
The Boise State women’s basketball team will be in Reno on Wednesday for a rematch of last year’s Mountain West championship game against Nevada (5-10, 1-3 MW).
Boise State (12-2, 3-0) edged the Wolf Pack 62-60 for the title on A’Shanti Coleman’s buzzer beater after the two teams split their regular-season meetings during the 2017-18 season.
“I think they’ll be up for it. I would if I was them,” Boise State coach Gordy Presnell said. “They were 10 seconds away from getting to go to the NCAA Tournament, so I know their kids will be fired up.”
Wednesday’s game tips off at 7:30 p.m. at Lawlor Events Center and will air on WatchStadium.com and 1350 AM.
The Broncos have won 13 straight games in Mountain West play dating back to last season and are one of just two teams left with perfect league records. If Boise State beats the Wolf Pack, it would set up a first-place showdown against Fresno State (11-4, 4-0 MW) on Saturday. The Bulldogs will be coming off a mid-week bye.
No. 10 NEVADA 72, BOISE STATE 71
No. 10 NEVADA (17-1)
Cody Martin 7-11 1-2 16; Jordan Caroline 5-10 3-5 15; Trey Porter 4-6 4-4 12; Caleb Martin 3-11 1-2 10; Jazz Johnson 4-6 0-0 10; Corey Henson 2-4 2-2 7; Tre’Shawn Thurman 1-3 0-2 2; Jordan Brown 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 26-51 11-17 72.
BOISE STATE (8-9)
Alex Hobbs 8-14 2-2 19; Justinian Jessup 7-15 1-1 17; Derrick Alston 4-9 6-6 14; Marcus Dickinson 3-7 3-4 11; Zach Haney 1-6 2-2 4; David Wacker 0-0 3-4 3; RJ Williams 1-3 0-0 2; Pat Dembley 0-3 1-4 1. Totals 24-57 18-23 71.
Nevada........................ 40 32 — 72
Boise State................... 31 40 — 71
3-point goals — Nevada 9-25 (Ca. Martin 3-11; Johnson 2-4; Caroline 2-4; Henson 1-3; Co. Martin 1-2; Thurman 0-1), Boise State 5-21 (Dickinson 2-4; Jessup 2-7; Hobbs 1-4; Williams 0-1; Dembley 0-3; Alston 0-2). Fouled out — None. Rebounds — Nevada 28 (Caroline 13), Boise State 29 (Hobbs 7). Assists — Nevada 10 (Co. Martin 4), Boise State 7 (Dickinson 2; Alston 2). Total fouls — Nevada 21, Boise State 16. Technical fouls — None. A — 8,022.