This was going to be a tough one for Air Force to get.
San Diego State, with its off-the-charts athleticism, always seems to pose a difficult matchup for the Falcons. And the Aztecs always play so much better at Viejas Arena (formerly Cox Arena) than they do on the road. (Even the 2006-07 Air Force team that won an academy-record 26 games was clobbered here, by 21 points).
Then Air Force dug itself a 12-0 hole by missing its first nine shots and not scoring until nearly 10 minutes had passed. Combine that with the Falcons’ 15 turnovers and the 15 offensive rebounds they allowed San Diego State to grab and the result was pretty much fait accompli.
But now, as Air Force begins the second half of Mountain West Conference play, there are some winnable games in front of the Falcons. And fewer excuses.
For one, the schedule is a bit more manageable. Air Force played five of its first eight MWC games on the road (including three of its last four). That means five of the last eight (and four of the next six) are at home. And the first two (against bottom-half-of-the-MWC squads TCU and Colorado State) are extremely winnable.
Second, the Falcons’ key freshmen have played enough now to get a feel for the game. Even after the contest, freshman guard Michael Lyons said that at this point in the season “I don’t consider my self a freshman anymore.”
Third, the team is just about as healthy as it’s going to get, as Grant Parker clearly is getting his legs back. Yes, Taylor Stewart will return in 10-12 days, and that will give the Falcons’ coaches another piece to fit into a rotation that injuries have jumbled all season. But it’s hard to feel bad about them having too many healthy players.
So now we get to hold Air Force to a little higher standard.
“We’re definitely going to regroup starting tonight,” Lyons said last night. “We’re staring the conference back over and the home court advantage should help us the first two games. We’ve just got to come out and play better.”