In front of a sold out crowd in Taco Bell Arena, Boise State men’s basketball team defeated the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) 93-91 in overtime Saturday night.
The game was a back-and-forth battle for much of the first half with no team able to pull away. There were nine lead changes during the first half, and the game was tied six times. UNLV went into the locker rooms at half, leading 41-40.
“Our defense wasn’t very good at all, and they were just hitting shots,” said sophomore guard Marcus Dickinson. “I think having zero turnovers in the first half is what kept us in the game. If we would have had 10 or 9 (turnovers), they would have had a pretty big lead on us.”
The largest lead of the half for UNLV was three points with 6:43 left in the first half. Boise State’s largest lead of the first half was six, with 17:05 left in the first half.
Senior guard Chandler Hutchison led the game with 13 points during the first half. Hutchison was under more pressure than normal this game, as NBA scouts from the Golden State Warriors came to the game to evaluate him.
“I didn’t even know that they were going to be here,” Hutchison said. “That’s something you kind of expect. You realize at all times that there’s going to be people watching. Mentally, that’s something I’ve been prepared for and been playing through this whole year.”
UNLV kept that lead at the beginning of the first half, but redshirt senior guard Lexus Williams hit a 3-point shot with 14:19 left in the game to give Boise State a 55-53 lead.
Boise State went on a 12-0 run to give the Broncos a 65-53 lead with 11:49 left in the game. After Williams’ 3-pointer, sophomore guard Justinian Jessup hit his fourth 3-point shot of the half. William made two free throws and an additional 3-pointer, and Hutchison made a jumper.
“Obviously I haven’t been hitting shots lately, but I just try to stick with it and my teammates always find me when I’m open. It felt good to hit those couple (shots),” Jessup said.
UNLV crawled back into the game, though. With 6:13 left in the game, UNLV trailed 68-71.
UNLV kept it close for the rest of the game, and hit a 3-point shot to make the game 81-80. They fouled Williams, who made one of two shots. UNLV trailed 82-80 with 18 seconds left but got fouled. With 12 seconds left, UNLV made both free throws to tie the game at 82.
“I think we did a good job sticking together; we just kept or composure no matter if we were down or up,” Dickinson said.
Hutchison missed the buzzer beater and the game went to overtime.
The Broncos outscored UNLV 11-9 in the overtime period and sealed the victory after UNLV failed to make a last-second shot.
“It was a hard-fought game,” Hutchison said. “It seemed everything was going their way and vice versa. It was really tough for us at times. I just tried to relay the message that I’ve been here for a long time, and I’ve been on the other end of games like that, and it just seems that we find a way, time and time and time again, to just be on the winning side.”
Head coach Leon Rice said that he was proud of how his team did.
“I was really proud of our guys,” Rice said. “I think they were really disappointed they didn’t win in regulation, but they regrouped and went out and got it done in overtime against a really good team.”
Five players for Boise State scored double figures.
“Chandler can get 30 anytime he wants. He’s probably to the most unselfish player I’ve ever played with. Anybody on this team can score, everybody plays great defense. When you have a team like that, it’s just really special,” Dickinson said.
Boise State made 13 3-point shots, compared to UNLV’s 6. This was one of the biggest differences for the Broncos.
This was Boise State’s second sell-out game of the year.
“It’s been awesome,” Hutchison said. “People are texting me all the time asking me for tickets. We’ve had such good capacity at our games, sometimes I have to be like ‘no, it’s sold out’… It’s exciting to be able to experience that. The experience around Boise, and the atmosphere right now, especially with our success. It’s been a big difference from times of the past.”
With this victory, Boise State improves to 19-4 on the season overall and 9-2 in Mountain West play. They are currently half a game behind conference leader, the University of Nevada, Reno.
Boise State’s next game is against New Mexico, Feb. 6, in New Mexico. The game tips at 8 p.m. and can be seen live on ESPNU.
*Chris Sengfelder is a senior forward