Runnin’ Rebels season ends in overtime thriller against Boise State 

Source: Brian Losness/USA TODAY Sports

The Boise State Broncos and UNLV Runnin’ Rebels squared off in the second round of the Mountain West Conference tournament on Thursday night, the third meeting between the teams this season. The Broncos defeated the Runnin’ Rebels 87-76 in overtime, ending the Rebels’ season. The Rebels’ exit in the Mountain West conference tournament quarterfinals brings their season to a 19-13 conclusion. EJ Harkless, Jordan McCabe, Elijah Parquet, and Cameron Burist’s careers as Rebels all came to an end with the loss.

Head coach Kevin Kruger said the legacy of this team should be remembered as a team who fought.

“They won some tough road wins, a group that’s incredibly competitive,” Kruger said. “A group that fights.”

The Broncos made their first three three-point attempts, jumping out to a 9-0 lead and handing the Rebels a bad start to the game. With his own three-pointer, Justin Webster stopped the Broncos’ shooting run and trimmed the lead to 9-3. With the made three-pointer, Webster extended the Rebels’ consecutive streak with a made three to 1,193 games. The Broncos then went on a 5-0 run, and the Rebels retaliated with a 7-0 run to reduce the Broncos’ lead to 14-10 with 15 minutes remaining in the half.

The Broncos made sure to keep their foot firmly planted on the gas pedal even though it appeared as though the Rebels were settling in. The Broncos extended their lead to 23-10 by responding to the Rebels’ run with a 9-0 run. With a layup, Keshon Gilbert stopped the Broncos’ run and cut their advantage to 23-12. The Broncos then went on a big 22-11 run to extend their lead to 45-23 before half, but the Broncos’ lead was then reduced to 50-36 going into the break thanks to an 11-5 run by the Rebels.

The Rebels’ defense had a difficult first half because they let the Broncos shoot the lights out.

The Rebels weren’t playing particularly bad defense, but the Broncos shot 70% from the field and 73% from beyond the arc. Simply put, the Broncos weren’t missing. The Rebels’ offense managed to shoot 47% from the field and 50% from three, but it was insufficient to match the Broncos’ scorching pace. With eight points, Harkless led the Rebels, and Gilbert, who came off the bench, followed him with seven points.

Kruger said the Broncos shooting was due their hot start and some defensive lapses his team had.

“A little bit of both, we had some lapses,” Kruger said. “They made nine of their first 12 threes, they were playing really hard.”

The Broncos’ lead was reduced to 54-42 by back-to-back three-pointers coming out of the half. Later, a Harkless made free throw capped a 10-2 run that reduced the Broncos’ lead to 56-52. The Broncos would respond each time the Rebels came closer in order to give themselves enough breathing room. With eight minutes left in the half, the Rebels were trailing by five points. Webster made a three-pointer to reduce the Broncos’ lead to just one point, and Harkless made an and-one three-point play on the Runnin’ Rebels’ ensuing possession to give them their first lead over Boise State at 67-65.

With one minute to play, the Broncos answered with a 7-0 run to take back the lead 72-67. Luis Rodriguez made a three-pointer, and the Rebels then fouled the Broncos with 12 seconds left on the clock to put them on the line. They split the free throws, which kept the Rebels alive. To tie the game, Harkless received the ball and missed a three-point attempt. After grabbing the rebound, Shane Nowell moved to the corner and made the game-tying shot to force overtime, the Rebels’ third overtime game in a row.

The Rebels struggled mightily to make a shot in overtime. With one minute remaining, Webster split free throws to cut the Broncos’ lead to 81-76. After that, Harkless received a call for a highly contentious foul, which resulted in a technical foul and him fouling out. The Broncos made four consecutive free throws to ice the game. Although the Rebels lost by 11 points, the contest was much closer than the final score suggested. The Broncos continued their hot streak in overtime, shooting 60% from the field and converting seven free throws. The Rebels, on the other hand, managed to shoot just 11% from the field and didn’t make a three.

Kruger undeniably said hard work will determine the future of the program.

“Just get in the gym and get to work,” Kruger said. 

Key Performers

  • Guard Justin Webster tallied 18 points (on 50% shooting), four rebounds, three assists, and one steal. 
  • Guard Elijah Harkless finished the night with 18 points, six rebounds, seven assists, and two steals.

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