Boise State Coasts at 85-59 Win Over Air Force
After falling short against Colorado State on Sunday, Leon Rice and company needed a rebound win as they headed into the home stretch of Mountain West play. Clune Arena, home of the Falcons, has been a tough place to play for Boise State. The Broncos have just four wins in nine tries. Circumstances would not improve much before the game as Emmanuel Akot was still listed as an absentee with a knee injury and Naje Smith was diagnosed with a non-COVID illness. A winter storm was moving through Colorado Springs at the time of the tip, heavily affecting attendance for those not residing on campus.
The game started with rotational play Lucas Milner scoring five points off the bench in the first five minutes, pushing the Broncos to a 15-7 lead. The Air Force slowly gained a foothold, crawling and leveling the game at 23 with eight minutes left in halftime. This is where memories of previous meetings at Clune Arena came flooding back. However, the next two possessions for Boise State were three points converted by Pavle Kuzmanovic and Tyson Degenhart. It was the separation the Broncos were looking for as they continued to extend their lead heading into the break. Marcus Shaver Jr. took control of the final four minutes of the half, earning nine points, including a pair of buckets in the final 33 seconds. At intermission, Boise State held a comfortable lead, up 45-31.
The start of the second half was a back and forth with both teams trading points. Mladen Armus led the charge for Boise State with eight points in the first four minutes. From 2:36 p.m. until a media timeout at 11:41 a.m., the Broncos led a 9-0 run to create their biggest lead of the game at 20. The final ten minutes were a spectacle for Max Rice and Tyson Degenhart as they combined for 15 of Boise State’s last 21 points. Kasean Pryor capped the victory with a jumper in the final seconds to give the Broncos a 26-point win and their biggest conference victory this season.
The Falcons were led by AJ Walker and Jake Heidbreder, who scored 19 and 18 points respectively. Production outside of Walker and Heidbreder was limited as no other Falcon scored more than five runs. In terms of shooting, the Air Force went to 45.8% from the field and 29.2% from beyond the arc. Their free throw shooting dropped in the second half, starting just two of five from the line. They would end up at 66% for the game.
Boise State not only had its best shooting night of the season, it was the best shooting performance of the entire Boise State team during the Leon Rice era. After leaving the field at 73% in the first half, the Broncos simmered at 64% in the second. It was good for a 68% clip while the three-point shot also shone. Boise State shot 10 of 18 from range, eclipsing 55%. Even the free-throw shooting was perfect as the Broncos went nine-for-nine from the charity strip. Individually, four players reached double figures, namely Marcus Shaver Jr., Max Rice, Lucas Milner and Mladen Armus. Milner set a career high with 13 points and Kasean Pryor scored his first points against a Division One opponent (Montana Tech is part of the NAIA) since the game against Temple in November. Sam Winter made an appearance for the first time against a Division One opponent since the Prairie View A&M game in December.
Going forward, the Air Force will be looking to stop the bleeding and end its six-game losing streak. Their next opportunity is Saturday, February 19and against the Wyoming Cowboys in Laramie. The Cowboys will be looking to bounce back from their loss at The Pit to New Mexico. The game is scheduled for 2:00 a.m. MST and will air on the Mountain West network.
As for Boise State, they will have back-to-back home games against conference foes Utah State and San Diego State. The Aggies will come to town on Saturday, February 19and and the game is scheduled for 4:00 a.m. MST. The game will be televised on CBS Sports Network (CBSSN).