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Boise State men's basketball 'gelling' amid six-game winning streak

Mountain West Player of the Week Max Rice said he believes Boise State is, "way farther along this year," than last year's championship team at this time.

BOISE, Idaho — Editor's note: The video above this article was published Monday, Dec. 5.

After winning just one of its first three contests in 2022, the Boise State men's basketball team is finding its footing at seemingly the perfect time; three weeks ahead of non-conference play. 

The Broncos are winners of six-straight games, after dominating Eastern Oregon 90-54 Tuesday night at ExtraMile Arena. On Dec. 3, Boise State won its third game over a Power 5 opponent, taking down Texas A&M 86-71 in Fort Worth. 

Following the win over the SEC Aggies, redshirt senior Max Rice picked up Mountain West Player of the Week honors. Rice dropped a career-high 25 points in Texas, while shooting 66.7% from the field. 

As Bronco Nation knows, Boise State's 2021-2022 gritty squad raised the standard, becoming the program's first team to win the Mountain West Conference Tournament.

The Broncos collected 27 total wins - including 15 conference wins and 14-consecutive wins - en route to an NCAA Tournament appearance. Head coach Leon Rice's group also won the program's first Mountain West Conference regular-season crown in 2022.

Despite the success, Boise State also jumped out to a shaky start in the record-setting season, going 3-4 to begin the season with losses to UC Irvine, St. Bonaventure, CSU Bakersfield and Saint Louis. 

Fast forward 12 months, and the Broncos are once again set to battle Saint Louis (7-3) on the road on Saturday, Dec. 10, at 6 p.m. MT. 

According to Max Rice, this year's squad is "way" ahead of last year's championship team, despite the departure of players like Abu Kigab and Emmanuel Akot. Max Rice also believes the Broncos' six-game streak will pay off in the long run of Mountain West Conference play.

"You know, I think if you're comparing it to last year, I think we're way farther along this year than we were last year, and you kind of saw how we got better last year over time," Max Rice said. "By the time we got to conference, I think that's when we reached about our peak, around that time. I still think there's a lot of gelling we can do. We can learn with these games coming up, and by the time we get to conference, I think we'll know our roles even better."

The Bishop Kelly High School graduate is having a career-best year so far, after starting in six games during the 2021-2022 season. Max Rice currently ranks third among Broncos with 12.3 points per game. 

As expected, last year's best Mountain West freshman – Tyson Degenhart – is averaging 14.4 points per contest, while adding an average of 5.2 rebounds. 

Marcus Shaver Jr., who earned All-Mountain West Second Team honors last year, leads the way with 15.6 points per game. Shaver also leads Boise State in rebounding, with an average of more than seven boards per outing. 

Following Tuesday's win, head man Leon Rice said "the key to this team is the development of the bench." Against Eastern Oregon, true freshman Sadaraque NgaNga had his best game in terms of points (13), rebounds (six) and minutes played (19).

Detroit Mercy transfer Mohammed Sylla not only scored his first points as a Bronco Tuesday, but he also went on to score 12 points. A total of 10 players made a bucket against the Mountaineers Tuesday, marking a season high. 

As the good news pours in for Boise State amid a six-game streak, Leon Rice kept things grounded Monday, and made it clear repeating last year's success is no easy task. 

"We got some – I don't want us to call them issues – but, things we're not great at yet or not up to our standard," Leon Rice said. "Yeah we're good at 'em, but like we talked about, the two most damaging words in the English language is 'good job,' and we're doing a few things at the good-job level. For us to go where we want to go, we gotta get great."

Saturday's contest against Saint Louis will be available to watch on ESPN+. Saint Louis has notable wins over Providence, Memphis and Murray State in 2022. 

The Broncos return to ExtraMile to face New Orleans (Dec. 13) and Oakland (Dec. 18), before closing out the non-conference slate at Santa Clara (Dec. 22). 

Mountain West competition tips off against Nevada in Reno on Wednesday, Dec. 28. 

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