Boise State Falls To Nevada 88-80

Ike Okoye gave it his all last night, exploding for 32 points and 14 rebounds. His great game was not enough to carry the Broncos to victory, as Boise State fell To Nevada 88-80 last night in overtime.

Boise State in most sports in most years has proven that a great team always beats a team of talented individuals.  Last night, the coin was flipped.

Despite a career-high evening from Ike Okoye (32 points and 14 rebounds), the Broncos fell to Nevada in Reno last night, 88-80 in overtime.  Daequon Montreal contributed 18 points in the losing effort and it was his three-pointer with 11 seconds remaining that forced overtime.

Boise State got solid contributions from Okoye, Montreal and Kurt Cunningham (11 points and five rebounds), but the rest of the cast was a combined 7-for-35. 

Luke Babbitt scored 27 points and Armon Johnson added 24 for the victorious Wolf Pack, now 15-9 on the season and 7-4 in the Western Athletic Conference.  Joey Shaw also had a solid game with 16 points and 12 boards for the Pack.

For Boise State , it was just the latest example of what appears to be a snakebitten team that can play the top teams in the conference close only to fall short.  As is customary with Greg Graham-coached teams, the Broncos are beginning to peak towards the end of the season and appear ready to take on the role of the team that no one wants to play come tournament time.

If they qualify, that is.

Only eight of the WAC teams will be in the postseason tourney and as of now, the Broncos are the odd team out.  Graham's team is 11-14 overall but a depressing 2-10 in WAC play.  That non-conference schedule that featured mostly NAIA and Big Sky Conference teams is now coming back to haunt Boise State dearly.  The Bronco team has four games remaining to try to improve their lot in life.

Once again, Boise State blew a lead.  They opened up a nine-point first-half lead at the other guy's house, which is a tough place to play.  Nevada came out of the locker room and erased the deficit pretty quickly, controlling the lead most of the second half.  Still, the Broncos refused to go away and Montreal 's clutch shot meant an extra five minutes.

Nevada held a 77-76 advantage with 3:19 left but went on a 10-2 run to ice the game.  Babbitt, whom NBA scouts are salivating over, had eight of those 10 points. 

By all rights, it was clearly a game in which Boise State should have prevailed.  The Broncos had a 48-38 advantage in points in the paint, outpointed the Pack 16-5 in second-chance points and the Boise State bench outscored the opposition 17-6.  If the outside shooters could have connected, there would not have been overtime.  Boise State was an unheard-of 1-17 from beyond the three-point line.  Given the success inside and the dismal performance outside, one would have thought at some point they would quit shooting the threes and do what was working.  But they didn't.  One by one, they continued to launch the long tries that went awry. 

Nevada capitalized. 

Another area in which the game was decided was the foul discrepancy.  Despite the fact that Boise State outplayed Nevada inside as referred to above, 25 fouls were called on the Broncos to just 16 on Nevada and the Pack received 36 free-throw attempts to just 20 for Boise State . 

Losing 10 of 12 WAC games will not get you a lot of respect from the officials.  Win some games and that discrepancy may go away.

Cunningham connected on four-of-seven shots from the field last night.  He is far and away the team's leading shooter, hitting 58.7% of his shots.  In fact, Cunningham is currently ranked as the #6 career leader in the history of Boise State .  He has hit 283-of-479 shots, a sizzling 59.08%.  The popular star from Indiana is ahead of Tanoka Beard (58.7% from 1989-1993) and Bruce Bolden (57.4% from 1981-1985) and just behind Danny Jones (59.4% from 1974-1978). 

Paul Noonan, meanwhile, was held to two points.  Noonan was 0-4 in attempts to pass Brian King for 10th place all-time in career three-pointers.  Both are tied with 120. 

Okoye also had a block last night after two games in which he came up empty.  Okoye, with 39 this season and 99 for his two-year career, is now just four swats away from tying all-time great Jason Ellis for fifth in career blocked shots.  Okoye's strong rebounding performance went a long way towards giving him a chance to tie Bolden and Pat Hoke for eighth all-time.  That pair averaged 7.0 over their careers; Okoye is just three rebounds shy of a 7.0 average.

Anthony Thomas had six points, four assists and a steal on the evening.  That leaves him 40 points shy of being the 19th member of the 1,000-points club at Boise State .  With the likelihood that he may not play in the WAC Tournament, Thomas needs to do it in six games.  On the other hand, if he can score 10 points a game over the four remaining WAC games, Boise State very well could jump into the tournament so as Thomas goes, so go the Broncos.

Thomas is 10 steals shy of third all-time in that category.  Gerry Washington (179 career steals) currently holds down the position.  Thomas is also 24 steals behind Joe Skiffer for #5—Skiffer had 343 from 1999-2004. 

Boise State is probably glad to play anyone not in the Western Athletic Conference.  They'll get to do that Wednesday night against Cal State-Bakersfield and in the Bracket Buster game at Taco Bell Arena Saturday night vs. UC-Davis.

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