As it has been for most of the last month, the script was the same for Boise State on Wednesday night.
Start a little slow out of the gate, catch fire, build a double-digit lead, let it dwindle, come back, happy ending.
So it went again in the Broncos’ 74-67 win at Nevada, their school record-tying 10th straight victory. They led by three with 72 seconds to play, but increased the gap to 10 only 46 seconds later.
“We’ve gotta learn, can’t let this happen, because I think it’ll haunt us if we keep doing it against good teams,” senior guard Mikey Thompson said. “We’ve got to keep the energy going ... but it’s our chemistry that’s let us do what we need to win.”
Boise State (13-4, 4-0) led for all but 1 minute, 54 seconds, seeing a 61-47 lead with 4:34 to play shrink to 63-60 with 1:12 remaining. Nevada (11-7, 2-3) got it that close when D.J. Fenner stole the ball from Boise State sophomore guard Chandler Hutchison under the basket after a defensive rebound.
Senior guard/forward Anthony Drmic drove toward the basket and kicked it out to junior forward Nick Duncan, who nailed the corner 3-pointer with 1:05 left to keep the Wolf Pack at bay. The Broncos have won 18 of their past 19 Mountain West regular-season games and handed Nevada its first loss in seven games at the Lawlor Events Center this season.
“I kind of thought twice about it, because if you miss, it’s like another turnover,” Duncan said. “But I felt really good, so I just put it up. Felt like any other shot I take in the gym.”
Though double-digit leads fell into two- or three-point leads in the second halves of four games in the past month, Boise State coach Leon Rice said responding is a mark of a mature team.
“I didn’t take a timeout there because I wanted to keep them attacking, trusted them and they made a great play,” Rice said.
The Broncos put the game away in a different fashion Wednesday, hitting 18-of-24 free throws in the second half, including 8-of-10 in the last 46 seconds. Rice half-jokingly said the team was going to shoot “mental free throws” Sunday after making 15-of-27 in the second half Saturday against Fresno State.
“Those were nails in the coffin, and we needed every one of them,” Rice said.
Nevada’s offense, about as dead as the guy Johnny Cash shot here in the first half, made 10-of-30 field goals in the first half, but hit six of their last 11 to make the game a little more interesting.
But the Broncos had enough of a cushion, thanks in part to a more fired up than usual Rice. With the Broncos leading 41-37 with less than 15 minutes remaining, Rice picked up his first technical foul of the season when he argued an offensive foul on Drmic away from the ball. Junior forward James Webb III stepped in between Rice and an official, and Thompson had his arm around Rice outside the ensuing huddle. The Broncos scored 18 of the next 27 points.
“We set one screen, then set another and I saw their guy barrel through both, and they called it on Anthony,” Rice said. “... It affected our team. They kept telling me, ‘We need you, you can’t get another one.’ They were coaching me up. That’s what we needed.
“Our guys, they kept telling me, ‘we’re going to get this done.’ I was like ‘all right,’ didn’t say another word after that.”
Thompson led the Broncos with 18 points, Webb had 14 points and 13 rebounds, Drmic had 13 points and Duncan added 11.
The Broncos take their winning streak, which came into the game tied for the fifth longest in the nation and matches the team’s best (Dec. 29, 1987-Jan. 28, 1988) and put it on the line against the Mountain West’s blue bloods, San Diego State (11-6, 4-0). Boise State won both meetings last season, holding the Aztecs to 46 points in each.
“Especially with San Diego State coming in, they’ll capitalize on our mistakes maybe more than most teams, so we have to come out strong at the start, keep it going in the second half,” Duncan said.
Broncos’ next game
Saturday: San Diego State (11-6, 4-0 Mountain West) at Boise State (13-4, 4-0), Taco Bell Arena, 8 p.m. (ESPN2)