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The Dagger: College Basketball Blog

Leon Rice’s wild victory celebration leads to awkward postgame handshake

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

Leon Rice couldn't hide his excitement.

As soon as referees informed the Boise State coach that replays showed the apparent game-winning shot from UNLV Deville Smith was still on the junior guard's fingertips as time expired, Rice stepped away, squatted and delivered a double fist pump to a roaring home crowd. Only after that did he manage to compose himself just enough to notice UNLV coach Dave Rice standing beside him and shake his counterpart's hand after Boise State's 91-90 overtime victory.

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Replays suggested Deville Smith's shot was still on his fingertips as time expired (via @Noel_in_Boise)

"It’s like being in a murder trial and I’m the defendant and I have to wait for the ‘guilty or not guilty,’" Leon Rice told the Idaho Statesman afterward. "I’ve never seen a basketball game, that I’ve been involved in, end like that."

The reaction from the Boise State coach has drawn criticism from UNLV fans upset that he celebrated in the face of their coach. A tweet from the Twitter account of UNLV's student section "The Rebellion" read "Congrats Leon Rice on becoming the most classless coach in college basketball. We'll remember this."

Maybe Rice should have been more careful not to show up his counterpart, but it's easy to understand his excitement considering how often the Broncos have been on the wrong end of close finishes like that this season.

They blew a 14-point second-half lead at home against first-place San Diego State and lost by two points. They lost by three to the Aztecs at Viejas Arena after Derrick Marks missed a potential go-ahead shot with four seconds left. They lost by two at home to Wyoming on a last-second shot shot by Larry Nance Jr. And they lost agonizing close games to UNLV, Utah State and Iowa State as well.

This time the Broncos wound up on the right side of a finish that could have gone either way, which extended their win streak to three straight and put them in a third-place tie in the Mountain West with UNLV and Wyoming.

That's a better position than it appeared Boise State would be in. Forgive Rice for getting a little too excited about it.

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