So where was this team all season?
The Falcons played with energy and emotion and – gasp – actually seemed to be having fun out there today.
You could tell by the body language of the players that they were not going to lose this game. Even the guys on the bench – they were on their feet and cheering and celebrating. It was nice to see.
An obvious reason the Falcons won was they actually hit some shots – something they did rarely in Mountain West Conference regular season play.
But a bigger reason was defense. Air Force players were flying out to the perimeter to contest Wyoming’s 3-point shots. They were attacking passing lanes and going after errant passes. They were sliding their feet and making it tough for the Cowboys to get into the lane.
In short, they were just playing nasty defense. The kind of defense Air Force used to play on a night-in, night-out basis.
“We were really well prepared,” senior forward/center Grant Parker said. “We knew what they were going to do pretty much every single play. We knew their options and what they could possibly run. … I thought energy was a big thing tonight.”
I asked Air Force coach Jeff Reynolds if his team had its best defensive performance of the season against the Cowboys.
“I think there were stretches that we were very solid,” he said. “You know, (Wyoming freshman guard) Desmar (Jackson) is so good at getting into the lane. I thought (Air Force senior guard) Avery Merriex came off the bench and did an outstanding job of forcing him to go side to side versus to the basket. I thought Mike McLain did a really good job, as well as Grant.”
-The Cowboys had a lot to do with their demise.
Playing without starting point guard JayDee Luster, the Cowboys made 13 turnovers and hit just 2-of-16 3-pointers and just 8-of-19 shots from the foul line. Ouch.
On Wyoming’s second possession of the second half, Desmar Jackson tossed a pass to Ryan Dermody on the right wing. Dermody reached for it with one hand, but it slipped off the hand and out of bounds. It just wasn’t the Cowboys’ day.
-Speaking of Jackson, he is a talented kid. Especially as a scorer. So smooth and deceptively quick. He just has a knack for getting through traffic, contorting his body and finding a way to force in shots. He’ll be fun to watch in the coming seasons.
-Play of the day, by far: Freshman guard Todd Fletcher’s drive to the hoop with about 3:26 to play. Wyoming was pressing, but the Falcons beat it, and Fletcher got the ball and took it across halfcourt. Instead of pulling it out and running clock, however, Fletcher saw a lane and exploited it. He went all the way to the rim and scored as he was fouled. He then hit the ensuing free throw to complete a 3-point play that finished off the Cowboys.
“I made my diagonal cut. I just hear Evan in the background saying, ‘Go, go, attack,’” Fletcher said. “Their big guy was backing up. I had to make a layup. I went in, got hit. Coach says always keep your eyes on the rim and I did and it went in.”
-I mentioned this in my notebook that will appear in tomorrow’s paper, but I wanted to send give props here on the blog. How ‘bout Ryan Gonzales – senior offensive tackle on the Air Force football team – winning the fan shootout during a break in the action in the first half?
Gonzales hit a free throw, a 3-pointer and a halfcourt shot to win the competition. And he needed just two tries on the free throw and 3 and four on the halfcourt shot.
There apparently are some ballers on the football team, including free safety Jon Davis (who played some for the prep school hoops team a few years ago), receiver Kevin Fogler, quarterback Tim Jefferson, receiver Kyle Halderman, outside linebackers Patrick Hennessey and Andre Morris Jr. and some others.
-Quick, quick, quick turnaround for Air Force. The Falcons will have about 21 hours from the end of their game against Wyoming to tip-off of tomorrow’s game against New Mexico. Until then.