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Climbing The Ladder: Boise State has terrific week, leaving New Mexico with a win and holding serve against Air Force

A win in The Pit never felt so sweet thanks to a career night by Max Rice.

NCAA Basketball: Air Force at Boise State Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports

Boise State 86 - New Mexico 78

Everyone thought that Boise State was going to come back to the Treasure Valley with a loss.

Vegas thought so.

Most Bronco fans thought so.

I thought so.

But instead, a hard-nosed, battle-tested group of men went into Albuquerque and took each blow delivered by the Lobos with a smile.

Unfazed by the artistry of Donovan Dent.

Tranquil in the face of a sold-out New Mexico crowd.

Confident that the process would lead them to a win.

On any other night, the performance of UNM’s Dent would have been the prevailing storyline. However, that honor, without question, went to Max Rice after scoring a career-high 35 points and converting seven three-pointers.

At the beginning of the game, Rice airballed a triple and The Pit let him know on each of the next handful of possessions when he touched the rock.

It may have been the loudest “Airball” chant I have ever heard.

Promptly, Rice responded not with words, but with action.

Chibuzo Agbo and O’Mar Stanley also made themselves known, scoring 16 and 12 points, respectively. The latter also tallied 14 rebounds.

However, the most impressive aspect of the Broncos’ win was their ability to keep Jaelen House in check, limiting his production to 2-15 shooting and only 12 points. They frustrated House and some early foul trouble forced him to sit for longer periods than head coach Richard Pitino would have liked.

Yes, Boise State was very fortunate to have Max Rice go off, but this win represented what this program is about.

Toughness.

Consistency.

Belief.

Leon Rice was doing an alright job prior to the pandemic, but he has found the magic elixir that is putting this program on a trajectory towards unprecedented heights.

Boise State 94 - Air Force 56

This was one of those weird trap games where you knew that there was a possibility that Boise State would be looking ahead to Colorado State.

With seven minutes left in the first half, Air Force was up 27-25.

Oh no.

Before the energy vampires could come out of the woodwork and chastise the team, the Broncos responded with 14-0 run to end the half.

Boise State 41 - Air Force 27.

The second half was smooth sailing for the Broncos. On offense, shots were coming with ease and guys were out there hooping. Before you knew it, they had increased their lead to 30 with a shade over ten minutes to go.

Tyson Degenhart was the star of the show, shooting a remarkable 11-12 and totaling 29 points. In fact, the whole team shot at a tremendous clip, managing 60% from the field and 55.6% from the three-point line.

Very, very good.

The Broncos even shot 86.4% from the free throw line on 22 attempts.

Off the bench, Kobe Young had some of his best minutes of the season while Andrew Meadow and Cam Martin provided some quality rest for the starters.

It was a drubbing for the Broncos that showcased what this offense can do when firing on all cylinders.

Up Next

A huge week for Boise State looms, starting tonight with a road contest in Fort Collins against the Colorado State Rams. This is another quad one opportunity as the Rams will look to exact revenge from their trip to Boise.

Colorado State is coming off of back-to-back wins against San Diego State and Fresno State.

On Saturday, Boise State will travel down to Logan and tango with Utah State in a battle of conference leaders.

Whomever wins may have the inside track to a Mountain West regular season title.