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Boise State, injured, survives the Air Force to set up the showdown for first place

Travel to USAFA, Colorado could end up being expensive for the Boise State men’s basketball team.

But it could have been worse.

The Broncos lost two starters to injuries, but won the game, 59-52, at Air Force Tuesday night at Clune Arena to set up a first-place showdown in the Mountain West at San Diego State on Friday.

Boise State coach Leon Rice told KBOI 670 AM in a postgame radio interview that he doesn’t have an injury update for starters Naje Smith and Marcus Shaver Jr. Smith went out with 6:34 to play in the first half and never returned, as Shaver limped to the dugout with 2:41 remaining in the game.

“No speculation,” Rice said. “I hate to see him, especially this time of year and especially with what’s coming. But it’s part of college basketball, and those kids are tough. If they can, they will and if they can’t, they won’t. He will have to be the next man and he will have to find a way. We will fix this as we go forward.”

Boise State (18-5, 8-2 MW) found a way to win Tuesday despite withstanding a series of runs from the defensively minded Falcons (12-11, 3-7).

The Broncos opened the game shooting just 2-of-10 from the field to trail 12-4 with 13:25 on the clock as freshman Rytis Petraitis scored nine of Air Force’s first 12 points. But the Broncos finished the first half on a 30-9 run, which included holding the Falcons scoreless for nearly 6 minutes.

Max Rice knocked down four 3-pointers in the final 4:47 to help the Broncos build a 34-21 halftime lead. Rice was 4-of-5 from 3-point range and 6-of-9 overall in the first half for 16 of his 22-point lead.

Boise State entered Tuesday’s game ranked eighth in the nation in 3-point field goal defense, at 28.1 percent. The Falcons felt that pressure defensively, shooting just 2-of-12 — or 16.7% — from deep in the opening half and 2-of-24 overall.

But the Broncos’ 15-point lead diminished in the second half as Air Force scored 11 unanswered points for a 46-45 lead with 7:01 to play. The Broncos and Falcons then traded field goals down the stretch, with Boise State hanging on to a 52-50 lead with 1:50 remaining in the game.

That’s when reserve Pavle Kuzmanovic came in big.

Playing in place of Shaver, Kuzmanovic nailed a retreating triple with 1:29 left to give the Broncos a two possession lead, 55-50. Max Rice then added a pair of free throws with 46.5 seconds left and Chibuzo Agbo dunked with 23 seconds left to give the Broncos a little more cushion.

“Pavle with Major 3,” Max Rice told KBOI 670 AM. “That was probably the biggest shot of his Boise State career. They’re not a bad team, but losses this time of year can hurt you, and you don’t want to put them in the hands of the committee (NCAA tournament). Being on the bubble is no fun. It was a big win for us, and thank God we made it in the end.”

The Broncos are on the road to a first-place matchup in Mountain West at San Diego State on Friday. Tipoff is at 7:00 p.m. mountain time at Viejas Arena and the game will be televised on Fox Sports 1 or heard on the radio on KBOI 670 AM.

Women’s Basketball: Broncos hold off San Diego State

The Boise State women’s basketball team held off a fourth-quarter comeback attempt on Monday night, beating second-ranked San Diego State 62-57 at ExtraMile Arena.

The Broncos (10-13, 5-5 MW) led by as many as 16 points in the fourth quarter before the Aztecs (18-6, 8-3) went up 14-2 to cut the Broncos lead to four with 3 :11 left.

San Diego State’s Sophia Ramos made a jump with 3 seconds remaining to make it 60-57, but Boise State junior Mary Kay Naro sealed the game from the foul line, making two free throws to secure the win.

“Most important tonight was our encouragement and enthusiasm,” Boise State coach Gordy Presnell said in a news release. “We died cruelly against Wyoming in the fourth quarter on Saturday. Our children would not let that happen again. Our meetings were great. I am so proud of them.

Natalie Pasco scored 14 points off the bench for the Broncos. The freshman shot 6-of-8 from the field, including 2-of-3 from beyond the arc. Fellow freshman Dani Bayes added 11 points, shooting 4-of-6 from the field and a perfect 3-of-3 from depth.

Boise State returned to the road for a Thursday game in Nevada. Tipoff is at 7:30 p.m. Mountain Time at the Lawlor Events Center and the game will be streamed live on the Mountain West Network or heard on the radio on KBOI 670 AM.

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