After hitting his first eight free throws of the night, Deonte Burton missed the first of two free throws with 8.9 seconds left in regulation to leave Nevada with a 68-65 lead. Michael Perez batted a pass out of bounds with 1.6 seconds left leaving Long Beach State to inbound the ball from its own corner.
Caffey, who led all scorers with 26 points, found free space and hit the bottom of the net as the red light on the scoreboard illuminated. It was pure from his hand. Burton pumped his fist in frustration after missing the free throw before.
“It hurts pretty bad knowing that you kind of gave a game away,” Burton said.
The missed free throw with 8.9 seconds hurt. The 18 turnovers that resulted in 20 Long Beach State points were excruciating.
“You have 18 turnovers, 16 of them from starters, you just can’t do that…,” Nevada coach David Carter said. “That was the difference in the game.”
Burton finished with 19 points despite a poor shooting night, connecting on 4-of-17 shots from the floor and going 0-for-8 from deep.
Trailing 77-74 with 30.2 seconds left, Burton put up a three-point shot off the back iron. Playing just his second game since the NCAA declared him eligible, AJ West hauled in the offensive board and kicked it back out to Burton. Burton could not connect again with 19 seconds left.
Carter said he thought Burton’s second shot was rushed but Burton defended his second attempt to tie the game.
Said Burton, “I’ll take it every time.”
Long Beach’s A.J. Spencer hit a pair of free throws after Burton’s second miss to extend the visitors lead to 79-74 with 19 seconds left.
Michael Perez hit a three with 9.3 seconds and as the 7,141 in attendance started to thin before Tyler Lamb (the former UCLA Bruin) missed the first of two free throws. Lamb finished with 17 points hitting only 5-of-25 shots.
Burton bobbled the ball once crossing half court and kicked the ball to Cole Huff whose would-be game-tying three ball rolled around the rim before kicking out.
Huff finished with 16 points and was 2-of-4 from beyond the arc before the last shot.
“I’ll take this one, this one is on me,” Burton said. “I had a bad shooting night. I won’t have a great shooting night, or a good shooting night, every night but I’ll take this one for my team.”
Nevada led the entire first half with the exception of a 30-second span that saw Long Beach State temporarily grab a 20-19 lead. With a 32-31 lead at the half, Nevada opened the second half on a 12-5 run and grabbed its biggest lead of the game, 44-36, with 15:14 remaining in regulation.
The 49ers responded with a 14-1 run of their own to grab a 50-45 lead (their largest of the game) with 11:07 remaining.
The lead changed hands five times in the final minutes before Nevada led 67-62 with 1:02 left.
Branford Jones rattled home a three-ball with 36.6 seconds left and Burton missed the one costly free throw setting up Caffey’s game-tying buzzer beater.
Jerry Evans Jr. finished with a double-double for the Pack turning in a team-high 21 points and 11 rebounds (season high).
Nevada fell to 5-8 while Long Beach State improved to 4-9.
The Pack now move on to Mountain West Conference play as it plays at San Jose State on New Years Day.