Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Published Saturday, Feb. 1, 2014 | 4:10 p.m.
Updated Saturday, Feb. 1, 2014 | 7:21 p.m.
UNLV 73, Boise State 69
Kevin Olekaibe drilled a 3-pointer in the final 20 seconds to complete one of the best comebacks in UNLV history. The Rebels trailed Boise State by 11 with 3:29 remaining, then came back with a 12-0 run and held on for a dramatic 73-69 victory at the Thomas & Mack Center.
Olekaibe finished with a team-leading 18 points that included multiple clutch shots down the stretch during that crucial run. Khem Birch finished with 15 points and 15 rebounds and Bryce Dejean-Jones shook off an off-night to finish with 11 points on five shot attempts.
Even after UNLV took the lead, which was a few minutes after several fans filed for the exits in resignation, it wasn't all smooth sailing. Deville Smith made several great plays on offense in the final five minutes but also got back for a backdoor cut that allowed Boise State to regain the lead.
That set up UNLV's final meaningful offensive possession, which started with 37 seconds left. Deville Smith dribbled around the perimeter and made a few small passes that eventually set up a wide-open Olekaibe coming up high off a screen. It was a deep shot but he was open and had been hitting his looks in the second half.
Derrick Marks finished with a game-high 22 points and Ryan Watkins had a double-double with 11 points and 12 rebounds. That seemed like it would be enough for Boise State, who shot 49.1 percent for the game, but they couldn't hold off the final Rebels' charge.
Check lasvegassun.com later tonight for a full report from tonight's classic Rebels game.
UNLV and Boise State both know that they can (mostly) beat up on the bottom of the Mountain West. What they’re still trying to figure out is how good they can be, and today’s game at the Thomas & Mack Center figures to reveal some of that.
The game tips at 5 p.m. and will air on CBS Sports Network.
Both teams are tied for fourth at 5-3 in conference play, but most of those wins are against the bottom feeders. The teams that the Rebels and Broncos have defeated have a .316 winning percentage (24-52), and their losses are to teams winning at a .750 clip (33-11).
It’s one of the reasons that neither fan base is entirely sure what to make of their respective team. The talent is clearly there for both teams, and on Boise State’s side there’s experience, too. The Broncos are the only team in Division I to return all five starters from an NCAA Tournament team.
The crazy thing is that the Broncos will have a lot of pieces back next year, too. Leading scorers Anthony Drmic (17.6 points per game, 4.9 rebounds per game) and Derrick Marks (15.5 ppg, 4.1 rpg) are juniors, and Canyon Springs High grad Mikey Thompson (8.7 ppg, 2.3 assist-to-turnover ratio) is only a sophomore.
So the future is still very bright at Boise State. The present is less clear.
This is the start of a six-game stretch that will make or break the Broncos’ season. After today it’s San Diego State at home, at Utah State, home for New Mexico, at Colorado State and then the second meeting with UNLV at Taco Bell Arena on Feb. 22.
UNLV’s stretch is a little easier, but this is also a pivotal time for the Rebels. There are enough games left against some quality opponents to prove their worth, but another setback at home could undo all of that before it ever really gets started.
Bern’s prediction: In a game seemingly this even, I’m a little surprised to see UNLV as less than a three-point favorite tonight. That’s an indicator of just how strange of a season it’s been at home for the Rebels, who already have five losses in the Mack. Certainly no one could be shocked if they picked up No. 6 today, but the Broncos have enough of their own issues that I’d rather side with the home team. UNLV 72, Boise State 67
Season: ATS 14-7, O/U 13-6-2