Another great effort by the Air Force Basketball team in Las Vegas Tuesday night against U-N-L-V. A tight game, tense moments, and a chance, as it turned out, to be tied for 5th in the conference with a win. And, and, and….another road loss. This Falcon Basketball team has shown improvement, but has been inconsistent. It has a bevy of talent, 90% of which is returning next year. But until they beat a GOOD team on the road, it won’t matter. Thus, the Glass Ceiling. The first chance for the Falcons do that was in San Diego a few weeks ago. But a slow start doomed them to a loss. Tuesday night, it was the Runnin Rebels, who came in leaking oil, having lost 4 of 5. But again, the Falcons found a way to give one away. They committed 15 turnovers, 9 in the second half, most unforced. In all of sports, the hardest thing to do is win on the road in College Basketball. No one can explain it. It just is. But if Air Force wants to be a team in the upper half of the Mountain West, that’s the hill they have to conquer. They had 2 road wins in conference last year, vs San Jose State and CSU and both were not GOOD teams when Air Force played them. Tuesday night the Falcons played GREAT basketball for 39 minutes. But still lost. Until The Falcons beat good teams on the road they will finish in the second half of the conference and finish below 500. This program can, in my opinion win 16-18 games every year. I’m optimistic Air Force can still beat good teams away from Clune Arena this year. 2 more chances remain this year…At Fresno State and Boise State, along with a road contest at improving Wyoming. Can painful lessons learned in Las Vegas Tuesday translate to road wins later this year? We shall see.
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After the Falcons were blown out at home against Colorado State Saturday February 2nd I drove home wondering what’s next for this team. They had won 4 of 5 MW games, with the lone loss a respectable showing against #6 Nevada. They played a poor first half against San Diego State and lost by 15, but I thought they had a great shot against CSU, and then with games against Wyoming, and on the road at faltering UNLV, believed Air Force could really put together a nice run. Saturday, a combination of a poor start, and an injury to leading scorer Lavelle Scottie, and off the court challenges for second leading scorer Ryan Swan doomed the Falcons. But it wasn’t even the loss to the Rams they had me thinking, it was how they lost. Again, Air Force came out with no energy, no enthusiasm, no urgency. I get tired of writing those words, but I have seen enough games to know when Air Force comes out early and plays desperate they can be a very good team. And when they don’t, they struggle. In the last 4 games they have fallen behind by double figures in the first half. Yes, they have won 2 of those games, but only because they started the second halves of those games like they should started the first halves. And with the regular season winding down, in a conference that isn’t as strong as its been in recent years, and with a Falcon team that has the potential to be the best squad Dave Pilipovich has had in 8 years, I just wonder if the Falcons can re-discover that magic out of the locker room to open games with. There’s still time to find it, but it has to come from within, and those 15 players in the White and Silver. The calendar is a not so gentle reminder that it’s not how you start, but how you finish.
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Don’t look now, (and it’s still early in conference play) but the Air Force Men’s Basketball team has really started to come together and play the type of ball Dave Pilipovich envisioned coming into the season. Another home double digit conference victory January 22nd, beating Boise State 74-60. I asked Pilipovich what the difference has been since being overwhelmed at Colorado State 2 weeks ago. He said they have been tougher on the players during practice and the kids have responded by playing a tougher brand of basketball. And not just physically. The Falcons have been tougher between the ears. Wednesday night they trailed by 13 with about 4 minutes left in the half. Then Lavelle Scottie turned up his game and hit back to back 3’s followed by a 2 pointer. That started a 16-3 run and just like that Air force was tied at halftime. The Falcons hit big shots in the second half and pulled away for the 14 point win. After the game Scottie told me the team hasn’t had an identity but feels they are starting to develop one, and he thinks it a defensive identity. As I watch the Falcons I see Air Force doing a better job defending the 3 point shot, specifically not everybody sagging into the late to stop a 2 point try, but staying on guys on the 3 point line, making them take contested 3’s. And this team , all of a sudden is tougher to play against, and has some grit to its game. I said a couple weeks back Air Force wasn’t a tough team to play against, and they weren’t playing with a snarl. They are now, and they are a more physical team than they’ve been. Sometimes it’s not about X’s and O’s. It’s about desire and “want to” and urgency and energy. I’ve seen more of it the last 4 games than the previous 14. It’s a good trend for Air Force. And all those attributes I just mentioned are things these players can control every game. The Falcons believe, and they are getting results. It’s still just mid-season and a lot can happen, but this team is making its move and no one in the conference better take them for granted.
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1-16-19…The night at Clune Arena the Air Force Men’s Basketball announced to the rest of the Mountain West Conference it has the potential to make life absolutely miserable for any team they face the rest of the season. The 106-88 win over UNLV set a school record for points against a conference foe. The dismantling of the Runnin Rebels was a classic-like watching Billy Joel at the Piano, or Bob Ross painting on PBS (you old timers may remember that one). 6 players in double figures…outrebound one of the top rebounding teams in the nation…leading for close to 38 minutes….From this memorable night 2 things emerge…#1) When the Cadet Wing makes an appearance with over a thousand students, they have a profound effect on the outcome. This game harkened back to the days when the Falcons had regular sellouts and “Section 8” as it was known, was teeming with cadets hanging from the rafters unleashing misery on teams like Utah with Rick Majerus, and BYU. This is from Marvin Menzies, UNLV’s Head Coach, after Wednesday night’s loss “We did a lot more switching than we normally do, and that didn’t work out too well for us because we couldn’t communicate it on the floor,” Menzies said. “They couldn’t even hear themselves barking out the screens and barking out the switches. The crowd really affected the game tonight. It’s rare that I say that at Air Force, but they had a great crowd.” And Air Force fed off that and played their best basketball in years. #2) The Falcons, when they play with urgency, energy, desire, and passion, can make that Wednesday Night performance more than just a “One Night Only” event. Sure it’s not easy to shoot 59% and have 6 players in double figures, and run your offense to near perfection, and rebound like your life depends on it. And it’s doubly tough to do that on the road where larger crowds and bigger student bodies await Lavelle Scottie, Ryan Swan and company. But………But…….Why can’t it happen? Why can’t the Falcons run their offense with quick passes and urgency? Why can’t they be the team to set the tone? Why can’t they outmuscle teams, like they did to UNLV, and San Diego State 4 nights earlier? Why can’t they emerge from a 12 or 14 win spin cycle they’ve been in the past 5 years? Why can’t they make life just the pits for any team they face? They can. We saw it. January 16th 2019. Over 1000 cadets were more than witnesses. They were part of it. They set the tone. But it’s up to the team on the floor. Was 1-16-19 a starting point, a foundation, a template for success? Or was it just a one hit wonder? Only the Falcons have that answer…Stay Tuned.
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Air Force Men’s basketball Coach Dave Pilipovich walked quickly and purposefully off the court at CSU Wednesday Night. He was angry and bewildered by his teams 87-64 loss to Colorado State, which dropped the Falcons to 5-10 and 0-3 on the season. He knew the Rams had been struggling and felt it was a lost opportunity. Colorado State played, maybe, their best game of the year. But all Pilipovich was thinking about was how much Air Force needs to work on. The defense has really struggled at times. Both CSU and Utah State before that, pretty much did what they wanted to. The Falcon defense is not making anyone’s life really tough or hard. What’s really frustrating is the Falcons defense against New Mexico, especially in the second half, was pretty good. Defense can’t come and go. It has to be a constant, and it isn’t for the Falcons. On offense the Falcons are one of the top 2 point percentage teams in the conference, and in the top 25 in the nation. Yet Air Force is second to last in the Mountain West in points per game. They are getting consistent scoring from Lavelle Scottie and Ryan Swan, and increased scoring from Keaton Van Soelen. The backcourt has struggled to score. They need more, consistent points from AJ Walker, Sid Tomes, Caleb Morris, and Chris Joyce. The Falcons have only 5 wins halfway through the season. The year isn’t lost, but at the same time Air Force has to play much much, better the rest of the way to make this mean something. The defense has to play with a snarl, with a passion and make every team feel it. When the Falcons have the ball they must value every possession, they have to shoot better from the 3 point line, the guards have to be a constant threat to score, and they have to move the ball with an energy and quickness that opposing defenses will dread. It’s what’s being done to them by other teams. Otherwise a potential breakthrough year becomes just another forgotten season.
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After the Falcons were blown out at home against Colorado State Saturday February 2nd I drove home wondering what’s next for this team. They had won 4 of 5 MW games, with the lone loss a respectable showing against #6 Nevada. They played a poor first half against San Diego State and lost by 15,…MORE
Don’t look now, (and it’s still early in conference play) but the Air Force Men’s Basketball team has really started to come together and play the type of ball Dave Pilipovich envisioned coming into the season. Another home double digit conference victory January 22nd, beating Boise State 74-60. I asked Pilipovich what the difference has…MORE
1-16-19…The night at Clune Arena the Air Force Men’s Basketball announced to the rest of the Mountain West Conference it has the potential to make life absolutely miserable for any team they face the rest of the season. The 106-88 win over UNLV set a school record for points against a conference foe. The dismantling…MORE