Boise State Holds On To Complete Sweep Of UNLV With Two-Point Win In Game Two
Boise State dodges series split, as Derrick Alston Jr. leads the way over UNLV in two-point win.
The Broncos secure the win to help make Leon Rice the winningest head coach in program history.
BOISE,ID–Records are meant to be broken, that is very much the nature of being a record. Just ask Leon Rice, the now winningest coach in Boise State men’s basketball history, with win number 214 coming Saturday night.
And of course, the 🐴 win means…
🔵🟠 𝟐𝟏𝟒 🟠🔵
— Boise State MBB (@BroncoSportsMBB) February 14, 2021
“The 214 is not about me. It’s about this program and all the guys that have had a piece of it.” said Rice.
As much as the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels tried on Saturday night, they could not stop the Boise State Broncos from placing their head coach in the record books.
Leon Rice and his squad didn’t have an easy path to those books this weekend. As UNLV looked to be gunning for another series split against a top-three conference foe on Saturday. Though they made it hard on the Broncos, they ultimately fell, 59-61 inside ExtraMile Arena.
To understand the tense but composed nature of the Boise State sidelines on Saturday we have to look back to Thursday. When the Broncos began the series with a comfortable 12-point win over UNLV in game-one, all seemed well. There was definitely room for improvement as some of the Bronco’s best scorers struggled shooting from the field. But, as a complete testament to how deep and varied this Boise State scoring attack is, others stepped up.
Three Broncos reached double-digits in that one, with Emmanuel Akot (16 points) leading the way. As well as the team’s second leading scorer Abu Kigab (14 points) and Serbian big man Mladen Armus (13 points) lending a hand.
In the second leg of the series on Saturday night, the Runnin’ Rebels began things off in a similar fashion. Keeping things close and ending the first-half with a one-point lead 28-27. The second-half started similarly but after a 14-0 UNLV run, the Broncos began to sweat and found themselves down 49-43 with 6:15 to go.
“Credit UNLV. They came out and battled and they are a good team. … But our guys just kept fighting and kept battling and what a credit to them. The wheels came off and we put them back on and were able to enough to finish the game.” said Leon Rice.
For UNLV coach T.J. Otzelberger, who saw his team play competitively in both contests. Only to give up big runs and ultimately lose composure and lose both games, it’s hard to watch.
“Having leadership and experience to command the game late is really important, and that’s something I feel like we end up in that spot and we’re not getting it,” Otzelberger said. “Whether it’s the free throws, whether it’s managing those possessions late, either way, that’s not happening.”
Boise State: Co-awardees-Derrick Alston Jr., Series stats: 18.0 PPG, 2.0 RPG & 1.5 APG in 35.5 MPG & Devonaire Doutrive, Series stats: 8.5 PPG, 1.5 RPG in 19.5 MPG
Yes, once again I can’t even narrow this category down to a single Player of the Game. And now have four players total who deserve the spotlight for their performances.
Derrick Alston Jr. looked like the player we all expected him to be this season. One has to remember that Alston Jr.’s season averages have taken a dip this year, but he is a leader on a record setting Bronco team. One that is still gunning for a regular season and possible conference tournament titles.
His performance in game-two of this home series against UNLV proves what kind of player he still is. One who steps aside and plays his part but when necessary, takes control. Alston Jr.’s 27 points led all scorers and was very much the difference maker between Boise State’s sweep of UNLV.
Although Alston Jr.’s veteran composure brought the Broncos back in the second-half on Saturday. Without a smooth up and under layup and ensuing defensive stop by Devonaire Doutrive who knows what happens.
Doutrive came off of the bench as Abu Kigab fouled out, his time on the court in crunch time was well deserved. Given his game winning layup to give his squad the lead at 57-56 to go along with a game winning defensive stop on UNLV guard Caleb Grill with 0.2 seconds left to play.
— FOX College Hoops (@CBBonFOX) February 14, 2021
The ongoing turn taking between these two players continues to come up as I reach this section in my UNLV series recaps. Both players are capable of taking over a game and leading their team in the scoring column. But they never seem to have “great” scoring outputs at the same time and always look like they are taking turns.
Last time around, I awarded the series player spotlight to Hamilton who had a couple of descent outputs against Air Force. Leading the team in one game while still managing double-digits but doing so very sloppily the second. At first glance at the box scores from this weekend’s series it looks like eerily similar to that previous output.
A 26-point performance from Hamilton in game-one, which included 24-points coming in the second-half was impressive from Hamilton on Thursday night. Then fast-forward to game-two on Saturday where he managed a 13 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assist performance. But doing so shooting 6-18 from the field (.333 FG%) and 1-6 (.166 3P%) from deep. After such a big performance in game-one, Hamilton was clearly the defensive focus in game-two.
So naturally in steps David Jenkins Jr., who also mirrored a similar level of consistency in the series. As he scored just 12-points (5-15 from the field, 0.333 FG%) in game-one. But was the scoring catalyst with 19 points on 7-12 (0.583 FG%) made field goals and 4-6 (0.667 3P%) from deep. That helped keep things just close enough in game-two to frighten their hosts.
— UNLV Men's Basketball (@TheRunninRebels) February 14, 2021
Mountain West Standings After the series:
1) Utah State 14-5 (11-2)
2) Boise State 16-4 (12-3)
3) Colorado State 14-4 (11-3)
4) San Diego State 15-4 (9-3)
5) Nevada 14-7 (9-5)
6) Fresno State 9-7 (7-7)
7) UNLV 8-11 (5-7)
8) Wyoming 10-9 (4-8)
9) San Jose State 5-13 (3-11)
10) Air Force 4-16 (2-14)
11) New Mexico 5-11 (1-11)
Boise State: The Broncos head into possibly the toughest part of their conference schedule this week. Starting the final four-game stretch of the season on Wednesday, when they host current league leader Utah State in Boise. There are still two games to be played for both squads after the series, so to say this is the Battle for First Place may be a little premature.
Still, there is definitely a conference championship on the line for both clubs when they meet this week. Just one game behind the Aggies, two wins at home this week will be just what the doctor ordered. Especially when the Broncos pack up their bags and head to San Diego next week to close the regular season.
The Runnin’ Rebels hit the road again this week, with their next series coming against 9th place San Jose State. The Spartans welcome UNLV for their season home opener in the Provident Credit Union Event Center on Friday.
Both squads are in two different places of the conference standings and two wins for either program would definitely mean a lot. Especially given the week pause on the Spartan’s schedule due to covid-19 positive cases within the Nevada Wolf Pack program. It’s hard to tell with the Spartans, but maybe the week off was just what the program needs to ruin UNLV’s week.
T.J. Otzelberger’s squad could begin a four game winning streak with wins over Fresno State back at home the following week. With the Runnin’ Rebels favored in all four games (per KenPom), a four-game winning streak is a tremendous way to walk into the conference tournament next month.
Larry Muniz covers college basketball as a writer for Mountain West Wire and WAC Hoops Digest. Also as a co-host of the college basketball podcast “Hoops Talk W/Jay & Larry”. He is also a USWBA Member.