No. 25 Boise State Pulls Away for 80-68 Win over Air Force

 

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By W.G. Ramirez
Associated Press, Special to TheMW.com

 

LAS VEGAS - Boise State forward Nick Duncan spends most of his time banging in the paint. That is unless he feels like knocking down 3-pointers.

 

Thursday he was feeling it.

 

The 6-foot-8, 245-pound Australian hit 3-pointers and scored 23 points in No. 25 Boise State's 80-68 quarterfinal victory over Air Force in the Mountain West tournament.

 

"I think the first one or two shots, if they go in, especially the second half, I go on a roll," said Duncan, who was 7 of 15 from 3-point range and 8 of 18 overall including 7 of 15 from beyond the arc.

 

"It's a good feeling, they're going through the hoop (and) hopefully (I) get another shot and do the same thing."

 

It was his third impressive performance against the Falcons this season. He was a combined 8 of 14 from the field - 8 of 13 from long range - in two regular-season meetings.

 

The top-seeded Broncos (25-7) used a 13-6 run over the final five minutes to pull away for the win, and will now face the winner of the Wyoming-Utah State matchup in Friday's semifinal.

 

Up 32-28 at halftime, Boise State raced to a 45-30 lead after limiting the Falcons to one field goal over the first 3 1/2 minutes. Air Force's Marek Olesinski hit two consecutive 3-pointers within 40 seconds to cut Boise State's lead to single-digits, but Duncan answered with a pair of 3s to push the Broncos' lead to 53-41 with 13:25 left.

 

Derrick Marks added 13 points for the Broncos, and Igor Hadziomerovic and Rob Heyer had 11 apiece.

 

"We knew coming in how talented they are and how well they shoot the basketball," Air Force coach Dave Pilipovich said. "They didn't disappoint. They shot the ball really well.

 

"They got a great start to the beginning of the (second) half. That kind of separated us and kept their distance. We were able to manufacture some momentum, some runs. We cut it to I believe six ... then couldn't get any deeper than that."

 

Olesinski led Air Force (14-17) with 14 points. Zach Kocur and Hayden Graham each had 13, and Trevor Lyons added 10.

 

"You get to the conference tournament, everybody's playing good, especially the teams that win - they played great yesterday (in the opening round)," Boise State coach Leon Rice said. "I was like, 'Oh boy, here we go.' Their kids play so hard. They run one of the hardest systems to guard in the country. That's a tough task."

 

Willie Ramirez is a Las Vegas-based freelance reporter and Southern Nevada correspondent for The Associated Press. Follow him on Twitter: @AP_WG