BOISE, Idaho — Boise State came close Wednesday night to making its first big mark in the Mountain West Conference.
After mounting a second-half rally and taking No. 12 UNLV to overtime, the Broncos ultimately ran out of steam, were outscored 13-8 in the extra period and watched the Rebels walk out of Taco Bell Arena with a 77-72 victory.
"We'll let them mourn for a day, but then we've got to bounce back," said coach Leon Rice, whose team has lost five straight and is still looking for its first victory in the new conference. "I don't know if it was a moral victory. What it was was a heck of a basketball game."
After trailing for most of the first half, Boise State (10-9, 0-4) fought back in the second half and overcame a five-point deficit in the final 2:13 of regulation.
But the Broncos didn't save enough for overtime, and a UNLV offense led by Mike Moser and Oscar Bellfield proved to be too much.
Bellfield hit a 3-pointer, putting the Rebels (19-3, 3-1) up 70-65 with 2:03 left, and Moser sank a pair of free throws in the final minute to seal UNLV's third straight victory. Moser had 18 points and a season-high 21 rebounds despite playing through an illness that caused him to vomit twice before the game.
Derrick Marks led the Broncos with 21 points and Thomas Bropleh added 17 points and 13 rebounds, his first double-double of the season.
Making his second start of the season, Marks, a freshman, played his finest game. He was 7-of-13 shooting, had six rebounds and four assists and found a way to make big plays when his team needed them most.
"I feel bad that we lost," Marks said. "But I'm just proud of my team, how we fought for 40 minutes and in overtime."
Rice said there is plenty his team can take from such a tough loss. The Rebels are the highest-ranked team to play at Boise State since No. 9 Washington State visited in 2007.
"What I think we've shown is we can compete in stretches. The stretches are getting longer," Rice said.
In the second half, Boise State briefly grabbed the lead when Bropleh hit a 3-pointer and was fouled. He followed by hitting the free throw to give the Broncos a 33-31 edge with 17:50 left.
Then Moser took over, hitting three 3-pointers over the next 3 minutes, the last one putting the Rebels up 43-39. Kendall Wallace hit a 3 on the next Rebels possession and Bellfield followed moments later with a fast-break layup to put UNLV in front 48-39 with 12:51 to go.
Yet the Broncos, bolstered by a rowdy crowd, refused to quit. A stingy defense and an offense sparked by Tre' Nichols helped Boise State outscore the Rebels 13-6 over the next 5 minutes. Nichols scored nine points during a 5-minute span and his 3-pointer with 5:55 left put the Broncos up 56-55.
"We knew that tonight would be a tremendous challenge," UNLV coach Dave Rice said. "We're still learning how to play well when it's a big game for the other team. And this was a big game for Boise State."
Bellfield hit a 3-pointer with 4:39 left to put the Rebels up 63-59 and Brice Massamba hit one of two free throws on the following possession to give the Rebels a 64-59 lead.
Boise State responded when Anthony Drmic hit a 3-pointer, and Marks sank both free throws with 59 seconds left to tie the game at 64. Both teams had shots in the final minute, but the Rebels failed to get a clean look and Moser swooped in to deflect Bropleh's last-second 3 before the buzzer.