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Last-second shot doesn’t drop, UNLV falls at Boise State

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Otto Kitsinger / Assocaited Press

UNLV’s Jordan Johnson reacts after the Rebels lost in overtime at Boise State on Feb. 3, 2018.

Brandon McCoy and Jordan Johnson took turns playing hero late in UNLV's thriller at Boise State on Saturday, but in the end it wasn't enough, as the Rebels fell in overtime, 93-91.

McCoy and Johnson both had a chance to extend the game and force a second OT on the game's final possession, but neither was able to convert, as Johnson's reverse layup missed and McCoy's follow-up tip attempt rolled off the rim as the buzzer sounded.

It was a tough loss for the Rebels, who had to claw out of several deficits in the second half and overtime. After Johnson's potential tying shot missed, he dropped to his knees for several moments and had to be consoled by teammates before walking to the locker room.

Johnson had no reason to hang his head, however. The senior point guard finished with 23 points and six assists in 42 minutes, and it was his clutch free throws at the end of regulation that necessitated overtime in the first place.

McCoy also came up big down the stretch, scoring UNLV's first seven points in overtime, including a huge 3-pointer to pull the Rebels within 90-89 with 25 seconds to play.

After the game, McCoy tried to accentuate the positives for UNLV, which dropped to 16-7 and 5-5 in Mountain West play.

"We took a big step," McCoy said. "We could have played way better, but I think we took a big step as a team, and just discipline and stuff. Jordy played hard and we all played hard. We just didn't get the ball to bounce our way."

Midway through the second half, overtime was the furthest thing from anyone's mind. UNLV had carried a 41-40 lead into halftime, but Boise State lit up the Rebels with a 14-0 run to take a 65-53 lead with 11 minutes to play.

UNLV spent much of the night throwing different defensive schemes at Boise State's star swingman Chandler Hutchison, but it was the supporting cast that caught fire in the second half. Sophomore guard Justinian Jessup hit four 3-pointers in the second half and scored 18 points for the game, while Hutchison finished with 21 points (6-of-18 FGs) and eight assists.

Boise State led, 78-70, with 2:30 to play, but Johnson scored seven straight points — two driving baskets and three free throws — to get UNLV back in the game. After Boise State free throws, power forward Shakur Juiston hit a 3-pointer to bring UNLV within 81-80 with 23 seconds to play.

Boise State guard Lexus Williams made 1-of-2 from the line with 18 seconds to play, and UNLV put the game in Johnson's hands, letting him drive to tie the game. He was fouled with 12 seconds to play and serenely sank both free throws.

Hutchison drove baseline on Boise State's final possession, but his pull-up jumper was short and the teams geared up for overtime.

Boise State scored the first six points of OT to take an 88-82 lead before McCoy converted consecutive post buckets to make it 88-86. After a pair of Hutchison free throws, McCoy stepped outside and swished a 3 with 25 seconds left to bring UNLV within 90-89.

Boise guard Marcus Dickinson made 1-of-2 from the line with 11 seconds left, and the Rebels once again let Johnson do his thing. With no timeouts remaining, Johnson raced down the right sideline and drove baseline, finding a sliver of space on the opposite side of the rim. He attempted to spin a reverse layup off the glass, but the shot was off the mark.

"We wanted to just get him going downhill," Menzies said. "We knew that they didn't want to foul in that situation. We needed two to tie and it was get to the basket. We did that, and we even had an opportunity for a tip-in at the end, it just kind of rimmed out. Those are the breaks of the road."

McCoy crashed the boards and attempted to guide the rebound in with his left hand, but the ball refused to drop through. It's unclear whether the tip-in would have even counted, as time appeared to expire a split-second before McCoy let go of the ball, but it didn't matter.

After winning back-to-back home games against San Diego State and San Jose State to get above .500 in league play for the first time this season, UNLV carried some momentum into Saturday's game. And though the Rebels showed plenty of spirit in pushing a Mountain West contender to the brink, there is no time to bask in moral victories. The Rebels will have head right back out on the road for Wednesday's game at first-place UNR.

Menzies said his players have no choice but to put the overtime heartbreaker behind them and get ready for Reno.

"They'll be fine," Menzies said. "They love each other. It's a good group of kids, they're high-character kids. They'll be fine. They're supposed to be in pain. It's supposed to hurt. If they weren't hurt, that would be a problem. But we'll move on to the next possession when the time is right."

Mike Grimala can be reached at 702-948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Mike on Twitter at twitter.com/mikegrimala.

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