Air Force takes on Boise State in MWC quarterfinals

Mar 12, 2015 - 2:55 PM Las Vegas, NV ( - The scene is set for one of the four quarterfinal matchups in the 16th annual Mountain West Conference Tournament, as the top-seeded and 25th-ranked Boise State Broncos go up against the Air Force Falcons at the Thomas & Mack Center on Thursday afternoon.

The Falcons, who have not had very much success in this event previously, winning just two of 17 opportunities heading into action on Wednesday afternoon, came alive late against New Mexico to register a 68-61 victory in the first round.

Unfortunately for the ninth-seeded Falcons, they've never made it out of the quarterfinals and lost both regular-season meetings against Boise State, scoring a mere 42 points in a 25-point blowout at Taco Bell Arena this time last month. As a result, the all-time series between the program now stands at 6-3 in favor of BSU.

Meanwhile, the Broncos enter the tourney as the top seed after matching San Diego State in the standings at 14-4 and winning the tiebreaker. Down the stretch Boise State hit the gas, rolling out six straight wins to close the regular season and victories in 14 of the last 15 games overall, that one defeat coming on the road versus Fresno State on Valentine's Day.

The winner of this outing will go up against the survivor of the Utah State/Wyoming contest in the semifinals on Friday night.

The Falcons shot only 36.7 percent from the field in the first half against New Mexico on Wednesday afternoon, which included a disappointing 3-of-11 effort beyond the arc, but the Academy trailed by just four points at the break. In the second half, Air Force came alive at both ends of the floor, limiting UNM to only eight field goals and 3-of-11 out on the perimeter, while the offense lit up the scoreboard with 65.0 percent accuracy from the floor, not to mention 9-of-12 at the free-throw line, in order to grab the win, just the third victory in this event over the years.

Zach Kocur erupted for a game-high 20 points, hitting 4-of-9 from the outside, followed by Trevor Lyons who not only tallied 10 points, but handed out five assists, made five steals and cleared four rebounds. Perhaps most surprising for the Falcons is that they survived despite watching Marek Olesinski score just five points on six shots. It also helped that the defense for the Falcons forced 18 turnovers and the Lobos shot just 13-of-22 at the free-throw line.

One of the many teams that is relatively new to the MWC after defecting from the Western Athletic Conference, the Broncos lost one of their top players in Anthony Drmic to an injury after just seven games and still they were able to mount a charge during conference play.

Picking up the pieces after Drmic went down, Derrick Marks led the attack for Boise State with his 19.6 ppg overall, a number that swelled to 21.3 ppg in league action. A 46.0 percent shooter behind the 3-point line who also led the Broncos with 88 assists and 54 steals, it was rather easy choosing Marks as the MWC Player of the Year. But Marks didn't do it all alone, in fact he had an unlikely accomplice in James Webb III who came out of nowhere to average 12.9 ppg and 9.0 rpg in league play, en route to being named the MWC Newcomer of the Year. Big man Nick Duncan (9.2 ppg) proved to be a tough matchup for defenders because he is capable of slipping out to the perimeter and hitting triples at a rate of 42.2 percent versus the rest of the MWC.

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