March 12, 2015

Boise State looked nothing like an NCAA Tournament team when a defeat at Wyoming more than two months ago capped its longest losing streak of the season.

The 25th-ranked Broncos likely have cemented their place in the 68-team field with a solid run since, and they'll look to avenge that loss when they face the Cowboys in the Mountain West tournament semifinals Friday night in Las Vegas.

Boise State (25-7) dropped its first three conference games and suffered a fourth consecutive defeat overall when it fell 65-54 to Wyoming (23-9) on Jan. 10. It has won 15 of 16 since and won its seventh in a row with Thursday's 80-68 quarterfinal win over ninth-seeded Air Force.

Mountain West player of the year Derrick Marks battled early foul trouble, but 6-foot-8 sophomore Nick Duncan hit 7 of 15 from 3-point range and finished with 23 points.

Marks, who led the conference in scoring at 19.6 points per game, had 13 for the top-seeded Broncos.

"I think since we started winning games, we've proven we can play with anyone on the court at any given time," Duncan said. "With Derrick, how he's been playing this year, even if he's in foul trouble we can continue on and play the game. (It's) great to have a player like Derrick and a team that we can play without Derrick at the same time."

Marks averaged 34.7 minutes over his previous three before playing 26 in a 71-52 rout over Fresno State on Saturday. The senior guard played 25 against Air Force, which coach Leon Rice said he can use to his advantage.

"(That's) the silver lining of our foul trouble. Now we move on," Rice said. "You know and I know I don't take him out very often in these close games. That's what's ahead of us. Maybe there's a benefit to him not playing heavy minutes (Thursday)."

Marks scored 16 points in the first meeting with Wyoming, but Duncan finished with just three on 1-of-6 shooting. Larry Nance Jr. had 18, 10 rebounds and four blocks in that contest for the Cowboys, who advanced to the semifinals with Thursday's 67-65 win over No. 5 seed Utah State.

Josh Adams scored 19 points, Charles Hankerson Jr. finished with 16 and Nance added 13.

"We played Wyoming so long ago, that's an interesting matchup," Rice said. "That was 2 1/2 months ago. It seems longer than that."

The fourth-seeded Cowboys, who had lost three of their previous four, will have to win the Mountain West tournament in order to qualify for the NCAAs.

"We're two games away from reaching the NCAA tournament. If that's not enough to keep these guys focused, I don't know what is," Nance said. "I do believe this team can do it."

Wyoming certainly knows it can beat Boise State. The Cowboys shot 53.7 percent from the field in the first meeting, but the Broncos have held opponents to 41.4 from the floor in the 16 games since.

Cowboys coach Larry Shyatt believes the pressure is on Boise State heading into this contest.

"They most certainly have a different mindset. They're the (regular-season) champions," Shyatt said. "They've had a great season. I would say more than anything that's impressed me is they have really collected themselves defensively. I think they're the best defensive team in this league."

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