Rebels basketball:

Boise State comes to UNLV looking for one more statement victory

The Broncos could sew up an NCAA Tournament berth with a victory; the Rebels want to extend their winning streak to 5 games

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Associated Press

UNLV’s Anthony Bennett (15) and Boise State’s Jeff Elorriaga (11) go after a loose ball during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013, in Boise, Idaho. BSU won 77-72. (AP Photo/Matt Cilley)

The Rebel Room

Breaking down the brackets

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CBSSports.com's Jeff Borzello joins Las Vegas Sun reporter Taylor Bern to discuss UNLV's seeding possibilities in Part One, and then at the 15:30 mark Taylor is joined by SI.com's Andy Glockner who offers his insight to the Mountain West's collective standing as we approach tournament time. All rights for the intro, outro and intermission music to alt-J, so go buy their album.

They’ve won four straight games and five out of the past six, and you could argue they’re playing the best basketball of the season.

No, not UNLV, though those descriptions could certainly fit the Rebels, too. They refer to UNLV’s opponent tonight, the Boise State Broncos (20-8, 8-6 Mountain West Conference), who are widely expected to be just one more quality victory away from getting into the NCAA Tournament. They’ll get a chance in the Thomas & Mack Center at 7 p.m. on Time Warner Cable SportsNet when they go for the regular season sweep against UNLV.

Most of the bracket projections currently have Boise as either one of the last teams in or one of the first teams left out of the field. A win today or Saturday when they host San Diego State should be the clincher, though Broncos coach Leon Rice said he knows better than to say crossing a certain line will get his team in.

“The line moves,” he said. “You just want to put yourself in the best position.”

Rice said he has addressed the team’s tournament potential with his players at various times over the past two weeks. Although some coaches pretend they don’t see any of the projections, he said he’s fine openly discussing where it looks like they stand at any given moment. That way, there’s no misunderstanding about the work the Broncos still have to put in.

“We’re not going to have any regrets in (the summer) that we didn’t put it all out there,” Rice said.

On Feb. 2, Boise State solidified its NCAA Tournament chances with a 77-72 home victory against UNLV in which the Broncos led the whole way. That was the first completely healthy game the Broncos’ Jeff Elorriaga (concussion) had played in a couple of weeks. He has appeared in every game since, including playing at least 38 minutes in half of them.

Although Anthony Drmic (18.3 points per game in conference play) and Derrick Marks (16.7 ppg) show up more in the box score, the team functions better when Elorriaga’s in the lineup than when he’s not. After defeating UNLV, the Broncos lost by one at San Diego State on Chase Tapley’s 3-pointer in the final seconds and then won five of the next six, the lone blemish a 10-point loss at New Mexico.

UNLV coach Dave Rice agrees with Leon Rice (no relation) that both teams are playing at least close to their best basketball right now. While the Broncos come in hunting for a ticket to the tournament, the Rebels are trying to ride the momentum of their four-game winning streak to secure a good seed in the conference tournament and in the NCAAs.

The Rebels can win out and clinch the No. 2 seed, meaning they would avoid a team such as Air Force or Boise State in the quarterfinals. Defeating the Broncos would add a sixth top-50 RPI victory, a number that could go up again in the conference tourney. So while Dave Rice would certainly like to see the Mountain West get a fifth team in the big tournament, it’s not his responsibility to help Boise get there.

Dave Rice said he’ll again start Mike Moser at power forward tonight and bring freshman Anthony Bennett off the bench. Moser is coming off a season-high 20 points against UNR, and Bennett is still dealing with nerve pain in his left shoulder.

“He was sore today, but he practiced,” Rice said.

Getting those two on the court together is a priority the rest of the season, though it will likely come only when Bennett moves to center. That’s how the team played before Khem Birch was eligible.

Exactly how all of the Rebels’ pieces will fit together down the stretch is a question they’ll begin to answer tonight. On the other side will be another team trying to sort out its future, one they hope is heading to the same 68-team destination as UNLV.

Taylor Bern can be reached at 948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Taylor on Twitter at twitter.com/taylorbern.

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  1. Huge game tonight. Even though we are at home, Boise St. has played well all year and looked really good against CSU. They had their bump in the road just like we did but are playing great ball right now. I think we can pull it out, home court being the difference in this one. Rebels 72, Broncos 68.

  2. This game is similar to the Nevada game. Boise State has two perimeter scorers, and the Rebels have to make them work to score their points. I see no reason why the Rebels can't get the job done tonight.

  3. I say this will be similar to last year when the Rebels struggled in Boise but blew them out here. I say we dominate inside this game and win by 16.

    Maybe I'm overly optimistic based on the last two road games, but I think this team has finally turned the corner. Moser is getting healthier, Jones is playing much better, and the offense has been smoother. The Rebels didn't even play that well in Boise and still had a chance to win at the end. It should be a different story tonight at the Mack.

  4. Well so far so good, Rebels down by 5 because Dave rice is not letting the rebels run like they know how to, like they did against UNR. Way to go Rice coach em right into an embarrasing loss at home. It's time to run not play half court.

  5. Helloooo wheres the rebounds on offense, ball in the air and they are all out side the paint?You watch thier offense it never sits still , rebels? uhhh duhhh what? oh you mean move ? tsk ok. What ? you want me to rebound too? ,tsk whatever. The rebels deserve to lose this one . down by 8 right now.

  6. Wow only down by 7 at the half, and they finally started running with 2 minutes left, amazing how fast Rice catches on. Ought to be a close one with Boise by 5 at the end. Once again hope I'm wrong.

  7. Hmmmmm sure is quiet in here , everybody in shock?

  8. Disgusting, 3 bricks in a row , 3 missed EASY layups, Oh yeahh should have no problem toight right guys? guys? guys? helloooooo any one in here.

  9. Can't watch this anymore I should have never turned it on.

  10. @fedup2here (Kenny Rogers) - Please go away.