BOISE, Idaho — UNLV couldn’t have asked for much more on its final overtime possession Saturday night at Taco Bell Arena.
The Rebels, trailing by two against Boise State, had guard Jordan Johnson driving to the rim as the clocked ticked down. Just what they wanted.
His reverse layup missed.
Freshman big man Brandon McCoy followed the miss with a point-blank tip at the buzzer, but the ball caught the edge of the rim and spun off.
Boise State, undefeated at home this season, escaped with a 93-91 overtime victory that left Johnson distraught on the court.
“I feel like we took a big step,” said McCoy, who scored seven of his game-high 24 points in overtime. “… Jordy really played hard, we all played hard, and we just didn’t get the ball to bounce the right way.”
The Rebels (16-7, 5-5 Mountain West) led 41-40 at halftime and pulled in front by five early in the second half against a Broncos team that was 12-0 at home and energized by a sellout crowd 10,737.
But the Broncos (19-4, 9-2) got hot from 3-point range and went on a 23-6 run in a six-minute stretch to build a 65-53 lead. The Rebels recovered to force overtime with a 3-pointer by Shakur Juiston (17 points), two free throws by Johnson (23 points) and excellent defense on the buzzer-beater by Boise State star Chandler Hutchison (21 points).
Boise State dominated the opening minutes of overtime, scoring the first six points for an 88-82 lead. While Boise State was preparing to shoot the free throws that provided that margin, McCoy shouted at the Rebels’ bench on the far end of the court.
“I just wanted us to run a play or something, because I feel like we were just shooting the ball up,” McCoy said. “It wasn’t nothing toward Coach. I was just trying to get us to come together.”
He got his team’s attention.
On the ensuing possession, the Rebels pitched the ball inside to McCoy for a basket. Two possessions later, he added a 10-footer. And on the next possession, he buried his only 3-point attempt to pull within 90-89 with 22.8 seconds left.
“I work on my 3 all the time,” he said. “I just hit it.”
After an exchange of two free throws per team, the Rebels fouled sharp-shooting Boise State guard Justinian Jessup (18 points) on an inbounds play with 6.6 seconds left. Jessup missed the first free throw but made the second for a 93-91 lead.
The Rebels immediately inbounded and counted on Johnson’s driving ability.
“We wanted to get him going downhill,” coach Marvin Menzies said. “We knew they probably wouldn’t want to foul in that situation. We needed two to tie — 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. It’s the breaks of the road.”
An emotional Johnson was on his knees on the court for several seconds after the game. His teammates surrounded him for support.
The Rebels play Wednesday at first-place and state rival UNR — and Menzies doesn’t expect any lingering effects.
“They’ll be fine,” he said. “They’re supposed to be in pain. If they weren’t hurt, that would be the problem.”