After coming up short on Sunday against Colorado State, Leon Rice and company needed a bounce back win as they enter the final stretch of Mountain West play. Clune Arena, home to the Falcons, has been a difficult place for Boise State to play. The Broncos have mustered only four wins in nine tries. The circumstances wouldn’t get much better pre-game as Emmanuel Akot was still classified as out with a knee injury and Naje Smith was diagnosed with a non-COVID illness. A winter storm was making its way through Colorado Springs at the time of tip-off, heavily impacting attendance for those who didn’t reside on campus.
The game started with rotational piece Lucas Milner scoring five points off the bench in the opening five minutes, pushing the Broncos out to a 15-7 lead. Air Force slowly gained their footing, crawling back and tying the game at 23 with eight minutes left in the half. This was where the memories of previous meetings at Clune Arena came flooding back. However, the next two possessions for Boise State were three pointers converted by Pavle Kuzmanovic and Tyson Degenhart. This was the separation that the Broncos were looking for as they continued to extend the lead before the break. Marcus Shaver Jr. took over the last four minutes of the half, going for nine points, including a pair of buckets within the last 33 seconds. At intermission, Boise State held a comfortable lead, up 45-31.
The beginning 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 the 14:36 mark to a media timeout at 11:41, the Broncos went on a 9-0 run to create their biggest lead of the game at 20. The final ten minutes were the Max Rice and Tyson Degenhart show as they combined for 15 of Boise State’s last 21 points. Kasean Pryor capped off the win with a jumper in the final seconds to give the Broncos a 26 point-win and their largest win in conference play this season.
The Falcons were led by A.J. 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 points. In terms of shooting, Air Force went 45.8 percent from the field and 29.2 percent from beyond the arc. Their free throw shooting fell off in the second half, only going two of five from the line. They would end up at 66 percent for the game.
Boise State had not only its best shooting night of the season, but it was the best shooting performance for any Boise State team during the Leon Rice era. After going 73 percent from the field in the first half, the Broncos simmered down to a cool 64 percent in the second. This was good for a 68 percent clip while the three-point shooting shined as well. Boise State shot 10 of 18 from distance, eclipsing 55 percent. Even the free-throw shooting was perfect as the Broncos went nine for nine from the charity stripe. Individually, four players reached double figures—those being 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 Temple game back 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, Air Force will look to stop the bleeding and end their six-game losing streak. Their next opportunity is on Saturday, February 19th against the Wyoming Cowboys in Laramie. The Cowboys will look to bounce back after their loss in The Pit to New Mexico. The game is scheduled for 2:00 MST and will be streamed 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 19th and the game is slated for 4:00 MST . The game will be televised on CBS Sports Network (CBSSN).