I posed the following question this morning on the blog:
Was the Air Force men’s basketball team’s performance in a 59-56 loss at New Mexico on Saturday truly a step in the right direction or just a one-game anomaly?
Looks a lot like the latter after tonight’s contest.
Some of the problems that have plagued Air Force throughout the season were problems again tonight. For instance:
-3-point shooting: Air Force went 2-of-17, including 0-of-6 in the second half.
-Free throw shooting: Air Force went 5-of-12. Really?
-Rebounding: While this is somewhat excusable, considering the Utes’ overall size, a 30-18 deficit on the boards never is good.
-Defense: “We came out in the second half knowing what they were going to do and wasn’t able to defend it,” Air Force coach Jeff Reynolds said.
“I thought we didn’t make some mature decisions defensively on our closeouts. And then we didn’t rotate over and help on the drives.”
Something else that stood out to me: This team – maybe because of all the losing – doesn’t have a killer instinct.
The Falcons totally controlled a first half in which Utah was dreadful, making nine turnovers and appearing totally confused by Air Force’s defense. But when the teams went to halftime, they were tied at 19. For as seemingly well as the Falcons played (and as poorly as the Utes played), they had no lead to show for it.
-Air Force seemed to lack some urgency late in the game. Down about 10 with less than five minutes to play, the Falcons mostly sat back and allowed the Utes to bleed time off the clock before attempting to score.
So I asked Reynolds after the game if he thought Air Force was too passive defensively in the closing few minutes, eschewing a pressing style.
“We extended our defense in the half court, and we had told them who to foul in the huddle,” Reynolds said. “We didn’t want to intentionally foul, and they did a nice job of keeping the ball away from their poor free throw shooters. Maybe we should have extended our press a little bit more when it was around three minutes.”
-Yes, the officials blew the call on Mike McLain that negated the Evan Washington dunk that would have cut Utah’s lead to two with 10:55 left. Yes, it was a momentum-swinging call. No, it doesn’t excuse Utah following it with a 13-2 run
-Between the incredibly slow pace of the game and all the empty seats, there was a weird atmosphere at Clune tonight.