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Boise State escapes bout with Air Force, battles for conference supremacy at San Diego State

The Broncos may have won the battle in Colorado Springs, but the health of Marcus Shaver Jr. and Naje Smith is a serious question heading into Viejas Arena.

NCAA Basketball: Boise State at Air Force Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Winning on the road in conference play is a challenge.

Winning on the road in the Mountain West is just plain-hard.

Clune Arena is different than the other venues in the conference because it is eerily quiet and lifeless. The fire you get from The Pit, Viejas, Spectrum, and Lawlor acts as a motivational flame.

Clune forces you to get into a rhythm without the external juice of 10,000 raging fans.

Key Teams Stats of the Night

Field Goal Percentage

Boise State - 43.1%

Air Force - 39.2%

Three-Point Percentage

Boise State - 31.8%

Air Force - 16.7%


Boise State - 6

Air Force - 3

Stat Leaders


Max Rice (BSU) - 22 points

Rytis Petraitis (AF) - 20 points


Max Rice (BSU) - 7 rebounds

Beau Becker (AF) - 10 rebounds


Tyson Degenhart and Pavle Kuzmanovic (BSU) - 2 assists

Jeffrey Mills (AF) - 5 assists

Story of the Game

The cold outside of Clune Arena rubbed off on Boise State as they only managed four points in the first seven minutes of play. Flip to Air Force, and forward Rytis Petraitis ignited the Falcons to an early 12-4 lead, accounting for their first nine points. The Broncos eventually find some comfortability on offense with a Kuzmanovic triple that jumpstarted a 12-0 run to regain the lead. Max Rice was boiling hot from downtown as the first half drew to a close, converting four three-pointers in the final five minutes of play. Thanks to this, Boise State managed to take a 13-point lead into halftime.

However, energizer Naje Smith had left the game with an apparent knee injury that forced him to sit for the remaining 20 minutes of play.

Despite what their record shows, Air Force is still a difficult team to put away due to the Princeton offense that they run.

The Broncos felt that in full force as the second half began.

The Falcons went on an immediate 13-2 run to cut the lead down to two with just over 13 minutes remaining. From that point on, the game stood neck-and-neck as neither team took control. Air Force found themselves in front only once during the final ten minutes, but that only lasted for 18 seconds. Marcus Shaver Jr. left the game with three minutes to go when he reaggravated an ankle injury he has been dealing with over the last few weeks. This left Kuzmanovic in the game during crunch time and, as we all expected, he drilled a three with 1:29 to go that put the Broncos up five.

Fouls and free throws took hold at the end, but Chibuzo Agbo was able to seal the deal with a final slam.


BOISE STATE BRONCOS (18-5, 8-2) 59

AIR FORCE FALCONS (12-11, 3-7) 52

BOISE STATE (18-5, 8-2) AT SAN DIEGO STATE (17-5, 8-2)

Location: San Diego, California (Viejas Arena)

Date/Time: Friday, February 3rd at 7:00 p.m. (Mountain Time)

Traditional Television: Fox Sports 1 (FS1)

Streaming: Fox Sports app

Radio: KBOI 670 AM

Head-to-Head: Boise State trails the all-time series 17-10, but won all three meetings against the Aztecs last season. The combined margin for all three games was a mere seven points.

Keys to Watch

1. Will Marcus Shaver Jr. and Naje Smith be available for Boise State?

  • It is quite possible that two of the Broncos’ starting five could be out in the most important conference game up to this point. Considering the explosiveness of SDSU guard Darrion Trammell and the size of Matt Bradley, playing short-handed would be a mighty task for Leon Rice.

2. Can the trio of Degenhart, Milner, and Sylla compete on the boards with the Aztecs’ Mensah, LeDee, and Johnson?

  • It is no secret that Brian Dutcher and San Diego State have the most physically imposing squad in the Mountain West. If Boise State can’t prevent the Aztecs from gobbling up rebounds and second chance opportunities, then I don’t see a path to a Bronco win.

3. Will Aztec Adam Seiko continue his recent hot streak from beyond the arc?

  • Seiko can be an absolute cannon from long range if he starts feeling it. The Aggies of Utah State witnessed this first-hand when he went seven for nine from three and scored a career-high 25 points just a little over a week ago.

Stat Leaders (Averages)


Boise State: Forward Tyson Degenhart - 14.4 Pts.

San Diego State: Guard Matt Bradley - 13.2 Pts.


Boise State: Guard Marcus Shaver Jr. - 6.3 Reb.

San Diego State: Forward Nathan Mensah - 5.9 Reb.


Boise State: Guard Marcus Shaver Jr. - 4.2 Ast.

San Diego State: Guard Darrion Trammell - 3.6 Ast.


Via our friends at DraftKings, Boise State is currently a six-point underdog and the total is set at 134.5.


With all the injuries to Boise State and the added motivation that San Diego State has from last year, it would take a Herculean effort to muster a win in Viejas Arena. I see the Broncos taking one on the chin before returning home to a much-needed weeklong break.

Final Score

Boise State 72 - San Diego State 79

What are your thoughts on the Broncos’ performance against Air Force?

Leave your comments down below.