Boise State Basketball

After forcing overtime at UNLV, Broncos have their hearts ‘ripped out’ once again

Boise State guard Derrick Alston and UNLV guard Noah Robotham battle for a loose ball during the second half of their game Saturday at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas. The Rebels won 85-81 in overtime.
Boise State guard Derrick Alston and UNLV guard Noah Robotham battle for a loose ball during the second half of their game Saturday at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas. The Rebels won 85-81 in overtime. Las Vegas Review-Journal

Perhaps the Boise State men’s basketball team hasn’t hit rock bottom after all.

In what feels like the basketball version of the 1993 movie “Groundhog Day,” the Broncos lost yet another close game to fall to 1-8 this season in contests decided by one possession or in overtime.

Boise State’s 18th loss of the season was an 85-81 overtime setback against UNLV on Saturday night at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas in a game the Broncos led by as many as 14 points.

Is this starting to sound familiar?

Boise State junior guard Justinian Jessup made an 18-foot jumper near the top of the key in the closing seconds of regulation to tie the game at 73-73 and force overtime. But as has become the theme of the 2018-19 season, the Broncos failed to get a defensive stop in the closing minutes to let the game slip away.

“At the end of the game we’re one basket short again,” Boise State coach Leon Rice said in a postgame radio interview on 670 AM. “I love the way they’re competing. I was really proud of them. They’re doing all they can, and they played a good game tonight. They deserved to win that game, but you’ve got to finish it as far as you’ve got to be able to get stops.”

Boise State redshirt sophomore Derrick Alston didn’t let an injury to a big toe — or “market pig” as Rice called it on Friday — slow him down. Although he did not get the start, Alston played 30 minutes and totaled a team-leading 21 points.

“DA’s toe. For him to do what he did tonight on one foot — because a toe injury’s tough. You can’t jump off of it. You can’t move off of it,” Rice said. “... But he was out there trying to battle for these guys.”

Boise State (11-18, 6-10) lost despite shooting 50 percent from the floor (29-of-58), 43.5 percent from beyond the arc (10-of-23) and 86.7 percent from the free-throw line (13-of-15). Jessup (18 points), Alex Hobbs (15), Zach Haney (13) and RJ Williams (11) joined Alston in double-digit scoring.

“They deserve and they want results. Everybody does. The fans do. The coaches do. The players do,” Rice said. “It’s probably been one of the most frustrating and hard-to-handle things that I’ve been through with a basketball team. The guys in this locker room, they’re just devastated again. That’s the worst as a coach having to go in there and try to pick these guys up. Their hearts have been ripped out so many times.”

With two games remaining in the regular season, the Broncos are in real danger of matching or setting the program record for losses. The 1980-81 team finished 7-19.

Boise State plays its final road game of the regular season at New Mexico (12-16, 6-10) on Wednesday. Tipoff was moved up to 7 p.m. MT on ESPN3 at “The Pit” in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Note: Jessup became the 29th player in Boise State history to reach 1,000 career points. He needed just five points against the Rebels to hit the milestone. He now has 1,013 career points.

BOISE ST. (11-18)
Derrick Alston 7-15 4-4 21; Justinian Jessup 7-16 0-0 18; Alex Hobbs 6-11 0-0 15; Zach Haney 6-7 1-2 13; RJ Williams 3-3 5-5 11; Malek Harwell 0-0 2-2 2; David Wacker 0-1 1-2 1; Marcus Dickinson 0-4 0-0 0; Pat Dembley 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 29-58 13-15 81.
UNLV (16-13)
Kris Clyburn 7-13 2-4 21; Amauri Hardy 6-15 2-6 16; Joel Ntambwe 5-12 2-2 14; Noah Robotham 4-7 2-2 13; Nick Blair 4-7 2-2 10; Cheikh Mbacke Diong 4-4 2-2 10; Jonathan Tchamwa Tch 0-1 1-2 1; Bryce Hamilton 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 30-60 13-20 85.
Boise St...................... 42 31 8 — 81
UNLV.......................... 40 33 12 — 85
3-point goals — Boise St. 10-23 (Jessup 4-8; Hobbs 3-3; Alston 3-9; Dickinson 0-2; Dembley 0-1), UNLV 12-29 (Clyburn 5-9; Robotham 3-6; Ntambwe 2-6; Hardy 2-7; Blair 0-1). Fouled out — Boise St.-None, UNLV-Diong. Rebounds — Boise St. 24 (Dickinson 6), UNLV 39 (Hardy 11). Assists — Boise St. 13 (Jessup 3; Hobbs 3), UNLV 16 (Robotham 9). Total fouls — Boise St. 16, UNLV 14. Technical fouls — None. A — 9,301.

Rachel Roberts has been covering sports for the Idaho Statesman since 2005. She attended Northwest Nazarene University and is Boise born and raised.If you like seeing stories like this, please consider supporting our work with a digital subscription to the Idaho Statesman.