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Runnin’ Rebels miss opportunity for upset win, lose to Broncos

The UNLV Runnin’ Rebels suffered a gut-wrenching two-point loss to the Boise State Broncos in their last outing.

Boise State held off UNLV, 61-59 Saturday, Feb. 13 from ExtraMile Arena.

“I really believe that your habits and everything you do everyday come back in those types of games,” head coach TJ Otzelberger said. “What I mean by that is, I think you’ve got to have a great desire to win which involves finishing plays, moving the basketball late and continuing to get the possessions that we had gotten throughout the course of the game.”

Boise State head coach Leon Rice became the all-time leader in wins for the program with the win over UNLV.

The Broncos are now 9-2 all-time against the Runnin’ Rebels and they are 8-0 at home. The loss drops the Rebels to 8-11 on the season and 5-7 in the Mountain West Conference.

As for schedule, the road trip continues for UNLV as it heads to San Jose State next for a two-game series with the Spartans.

“[One day at a time] is how I lead and how we practice,” Otzelberger said. “To me, I’m an everyday guy, I’m up early, ‘Let’s do the hard work.’ So hopefully our guys follow that lead and take it one day at a time.”

Game one of the series is scheduled for Friday, Feb. 19 with tip-off set for 6:30 p.m.

Otzelberger was asked postgame if it was fair to assess his team’s tendency to play “down or up to an opponent” on any given night.

“You can probably make that assertion because if you look at some of the outcomes of the games, that appears to be what’s happening,” he said. “As a coach, you don’t want that to be the case. You want to respect all of your opponents and more than anything respect your teammates and be the best team you can every single day.”

UNLV had a chance to win the game off a late steal by junior guard Bryce Hamilton.

“[Boise State] was in a scramble situation and you don’t want to allow them to get set,” Otzelberger said. “So the ball is in [Hamilton’s] hands, I trust him and I like the fact that [Grill] attacked that closeout.”

Hamilton stole the inbounds pass with less than 10 seconds left, raced down court, finding sophomore Caleb Grill in the process.

Grill drove inside the paint, looking to draw contact and a foul call. However, no foul was called and Grill missed the game-winning attempt.

“Unfortunately for us, down-the-stretch our lack of leadership, point guard play, experience -- whatever you want to call it comes back and haunts us,” Otzelberger said. “We’ve got to do a better job at managing possessions late, sharing the basketball and obviously, we’ve got to convert at the free throw line.”

The Rebels held a 35-34 lead over the Broncos with 14:17 left in the first half.

Following a timeout call, Boise State went on a 9-0 run to take the lead.

That run was led and manufactured by leading scorer Derrick Alston, who scored 27 points on 8-of-16 shooting.

He was the only Broncos’ player in double-figures after being held to just nine points in the first meeting between the two teams.

“The plan was really to shrink the floor,” Otzelberger said. “[Alston] hit a lot of his shots early on second chance and kind of broken plays.”

UNLV cut the lead to one and would eventually lead by as much as six with as little as 6:15 left in regulation.

Junior guard David Jenkins Jr. caught fire late and ended up with a team-high 19 points on 7-of-12 shooting from the floor including going 4-of-6 from deep.

Hamilton scored 13 points, followed by Grill with 11 points of his own.

As a team, the Rebels shot 7-for-10 from the free throw line, just two nights after shooting 4-for-9 from the charity stripe.

On the other hand, the Broncos attempted 39 free throws over the two-game stretch, converting on 29 of them.

“We talked to our guys a lot about physicality,” Otzelberger said. “Late in the game, we want to get to the line, get to the paint. I feel like there’s been times in some of these games that we just settle for long bombs that are contested and our opponents are getting to the rim.”

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