• Saturday Morning Links

    Sat, March 13, 2010 by admin with 5 comments

    Greetings from Washington, DC.

    I didn’t get a links post up yesterday because of internet troubles/traveling. So here’s my story on the Air Force men’s basketball team’s 75-69 loss to New Mexico on Thursday in the Mountain West Conference Tournament quarterfinals. The Falcons played well – especially a pair of freshmen guards, Michael Lyons and Todd Fletcher. Both really came of age in the MWC Tournament.

    I wrote for today’s edition of The Gazette about the momentum and positive feelings the Air Force men’s basketball team should carry into the offseason. And, how, unfortunately, the Falcons carried a bunch of momentum and optimism into last season’s offseason (and, obviously, didn’t carry it through to 2009-10).

    But could things be different next year? I explore.

    One thing I didn’t fit in the article was an interesting comment from junior guard Evan Washington. He was asked what Air Force had to do to return to the winning ways of 2003-07.

    “You know, I think it’s just gonna be a mindset,” Washington said. “When I was a freshman, when I was at the prep school, you know, everybody here had a mindset that you don’t lose, especially at home,” he said. “That’s going to be something that we have to get back. We started to develop towards the end of the year. When times got tough, we would persevere through it. We wanted to win. We had the mindset we were in the game to win, not to lose. I think we’re just going to have to get that back for the future.”

    Switching to the ice, Air Force defeated Army, 3-0, at Cadet Ice Arena last night in the first game of their best-of-three Atlantic hockey Association quarterfinal series. As Brian Gomez points out in the linked article, the Falcons know how to win in the postseason. That and a hot goalie (Andrew Volkening) could make for another run deep into the postseason.

  • New Mexico 75, Air Force 69 – Rapid Reaction

    Thu, March 11, 2010 by admin with 4 comments

    Too bad there aren’t a few more weeks left in the season.

    Because it would be interesting to see if Air Force could keep performing like it did the last two days, when it played arguably its two best games of the 2009-10 campaign.

    This afternoon, they pushed the No. 8 team in the country throughout a physical, intense, emotional and often contentious game. This Falcons team was not the same team that we all watched most of the 2009-10 season.

    “I think towards the end of the season we started to click,” junior forward Tom Fow said. “We started to get things, have that passion, have that personal pride, you know, that we weren’t going to lay down for anybody.”

    Not surprisingly, the Falcons shot the ball extremely well this afternoon. In part because they attacked the rim and got some back-door layins, they went 27-of-50 from the field.

    Don’t want to say shooting is everything with this team, but consider this: Air Force’s four best shooting performances against conference foes are below. Those four coincide with Air Force’s only two victories against league foes this season and their two other top performances this season (both against New Mexico).

    Date – Opponent – Percentage
    Today – New Mexico – 54.0
    2/20 – New Mexico – 51.2
    Wed. – Wyoming – 47.9
    1/30 – Wyoming – 45.1

    That says a lot.

    But perhaps even more important than the shooting the last two days was the passion, emotion and energy with which the Falcons played. As I wrote yesterday, even the bench was into it.

    Again, I wonder where that energy was the rest of the season. And I wish the Falcons had a few more weeks to play with it.

    Other Notes:
    -I Tweeted this before the game: That was like a road game for Air Force. A ton of Lobo fans in the crowd at the Thomas & Mack.

    “New Mexico, they brought The Pit with them to the conference tournament,” Fow said.

    Air Force got a lift from the fans of other teams who were in attendance (they clearly wanted to see the upset). But the Lobos had the majority of the voices at Thomas & Mack.

    -I’ve wondered about some of Air Force coach Jeff Reynolds’ substitution patterns throughout the season. But I’ve got to say that he did an excellent job with juggling the lineup on Thursday. With a team that had just finished a game 21 hours earlier, Reynolds got good rest for his key players and found good combinations with his reserves. That was a key reason his team was in the game.

    -New Mexico junior guard Darington Hobson is a tremendous talent, and I voted for him as the Mountain West Conference Player of the Year. He was, without question, the best player in the league this year. And I think his versatile game and long, athletic body could make him a very good pro.

    So he’s too good a player for that preening, trash-talking, chest-pounding, punkish act he often displays during games.

    (Quick side note: Tomorrow is my birthday, and I already feel like old man. When I write sentences like the one before the parentheses, I feel like even more of an old grouch. Oh well.)

    Anyhow, if I was a New Mexico fan, I’d love his emotion. But I’d be concerned about how A) he got a technical foul for pounding his chest and celebrating after a bucket in the second half; B) how he seemed to get into it with Reynolds heading into a timeout (Reynolds and Hobson talked after the game and shared a hug); and C) how he got in the face of teammate Chad Adams late in the first half. Hobson came up with a steal and drove the court. He eventually got to the hoop and was called for a charge. He then yelled at Adams as if the foul was all Adams’ fault for not filling a lane.

    To Hobson’s credit, he gave a thoughtful response when he was asked if he can grow his passion “without encountering the negative side of that.” And he took responsibility for the tech.

    “Yeah, that’s one of the things I’ve been working on, trying to work on down the stretch,” Hobson said. “You know, it cost us two points during the game. I apologize for that. But you know, that’s just something I still have to work on. I’m an emotional player, and I show a lot of emotion when I play.”

    -One last thing:

    I wrote for tomorrow’s paper about the outstanding play of Air Force freshmen Michael Lyons and Todd Fletcher. Those two – and the rest of the freshmen on Air Force’s team – won’t be able to kick their feet up and get some rest now that the season’s over.

    Air Force was set to jump on a plane tonight and head back to the academy so the players could participate in “Recognition,” which essentially is a rite of passage for the freshmen.

    It starts today and includes physical training, room and uniform inspections, quizzes about academy and military heritage – you name it. Think rushing a fraternity without the booze and embarrassing hazing techniques. (“It’d probably be enough to scare you and your friends,” Lt. Gen. Michael Gould, the academy’s superintendent, told me after today’s game).

    It runs through Saturday night when the freshmen are awarded the Prop and Wings insignia. That signifies the fourth classmen are officially part of the Cadet Wing.

    Heading back to the academy after a heartbreaking loss would be tough enough. Having to join in this difficult process probably makes it much tougher.

    Best of luck to the frosh.

  • Air Force 59, Wyoming 40 – Rapid Reaction

    Wed, March 10, 2010 by admin with no comments

    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.”

    Other Notes:
    -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.

  • Wyoming 58, Air Force 49 – Rapid Reaction

    Wed, March 3, 2010 by admin with 1 comment

    When Grant Parker was a freshman, Air Force won 26 games and reached the semifinals of the National Invitation Tournament. The Falcons, for a time, were ranked No. 11 in the coaches’ Top 25.

    Now, just three years later, Air Force will finish in the Mountain West Conference cellar for the second season in a row.

    Could anyone have imagined such a drastic fall from grace? Parker certainly couldn’t have.

    “No,” he said. “You don’t really picture that happening. But at the same time, stuff happens and you’ve just got to try to move on and look to the (Mountain West Conference) tournament, I guess. It’s really tough because we’ve played really well at times this season, but collectively, overall, we haven’t really played as well as we would have liked.”

    Air Force ended last season with a smidge of a positive feeling, staying close in games at UNLV and BYU and then beating Colorado State in the MWC Tournament play-in game before finishing the season with a noble loss to the Cougars in the tournament quarterfinals.

    The Falcons will need a major turnaround in Saturday’s regular season finale and the MWC Tournament to take any positive feeling into this offseason. Because right now, the Falcons don’t seem to be getting any better.

    Other Notes:
    -Air Force pulled to within one point of Wyoming – 48-47 – after Tom Fow hit a jumper and then Evan Washington hit a 3-pointer with 2:40 to play.

    But things unraveled after that.

    So I asked Air Force coach Jeff Reynolds after the game how disappointed he was that his team didn’t execute so well on the possessions after Washington’s 3.

    “Well, what do you call, ‘not executing?’” he asked.

    Here were Air Force’s three possessions after Washington’s 3-pointer: Forced, air-balled 3-pointer as the shot clock was about to expire. Turnover. Turnover. I’d call that not executing.

    “We missed two layups, too,” Reynolds said.

    I told him I was talking about the three possessions following Washington’s 3.

    “Well, we wouldn’t have been in that situation if we’d made those shots prior,” Reynolds said. “And that’s frustrating.”

    -Air Force out-rebounded the Cowboys, 28-25. It was the first time in conference play the Falcons out-rebounded an opponent.

    -Freshman Michael Lyons continues to struggle from 3-point range. He missed all four of his attempts from beyond the 3-point arc and is now 1-for-16 from 3 in his last four games. Lyons also had five turnovers in 36 minutes tonight.

    -Shawn Hempsey started six games last season and played in 12 others. But he has barely sniffed the floor lately. He logged his sixth DNP-Coach’s Decision in MWC play on Tuesday night.

  • Colorado State 51, Air Force 47 – Rapid Reaction

    Wed, February 10, 2010 by admin with 7 comments

    “Tonight we learned how to find a way to win.”
    -Colorado State coach Tim Miles

    “The difference in the game was we just couldn’t put the ball in the basket the second half. We had open shots.”
    -Air Force coach Jeff Reynolds

    Those were brief excerpts from tonight’s post-game interviews. And I think – in tandem – they help explain tonight’s result.

    We’ll start with Reynolds’ quote. Yes, Air Force couldn’t put the ball in the basket in the second half. After making 10-of-23 shots (43.5 percent) from the floor before halftime, the Falcons made just 4-of-22 shots (18.2 percent) after halftime.

    But part of that, I think, has to do with the fact that Air Force has not yet – to use Miles’ quote – learned how to find a way to win. If they knew how to find a way to win, maybe they knock down one of the open looks they had down the stretch. Maybe they get to the free throw line one more time. Maybe they avoid a careless turnover. Maybe they get one extra stop.

    The Falcons have dropped 26 of 28 games against MWC foes the last two seasons (including the tournament). And during that time they’ve found numerous ways to lose. But they haven’t learned how to win.

    And, unfortunately, there’s no crash course, no Cliff’s Notes for this. There’s no way to learn how to win except by winning.

    Other notes/thoughts:
    -It was really brutal to watch Air Force unravel.

    Seems like most times a team comes from behind to win a game, it makes a decisive run. Colorado State, however, just chipped away and chipped away as the Falcons became unable to score.

    -A quick note on the Falcons’ last possession with a chance to tie:

    Down 50-47, Air Force forces a missed shot by Colorado State (and a subsequent 35-second violation) and then calls timeout with 27.3 seconds left.

    Reynolds said he wanted to try to get a quick 2-point bucket. But that’s not what happened. The Falcons moved the ball around the perimeter and eventually settled for a contested 3-point shot by Evan Washington that missed.

    “Three freshmen, I think, were on the floor that last play, and we really wanted to drive the ball there because we had [27] seconds,” Reynolds said. “We knew they wouldn’t foul us, and we went a little brain dead.”

    -A potential rivalry in the making: Air Force’s Todd Fletcher vs. Colorado State’s Dorian Green.

    Both freshman point guards already are running their respective teams. Both have plenty of upside and moxie. And both should be playing in the MWC for the next three years. It will be fun to watch them go head-to-head the next few seasons.

    -Reynolds praised freshmen Michael Lyons (seven points and four rebounds but four turnovers) and Taylor Broekhuis (seven points, three rebounds), who played 28 and 23 minutes, respectively, though “they’ve been really sick.”

    -Kudos also to senior forward/center Grant Parker, who scored a game-high 13 points despite playing with a sore left shoulder. Parker’s left arm popped out of and back into its socket during Monday’s practice.

    -Washington matched a career-high with eight rebounds but missed 10-of-13 shots from the floor, including all four of his 3-point attempts.

  • San Diego State 70, Air Force 48 – Rapid Reaction

    Wed, February 3, 2010 by admin with 1 comment

    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.”

  • Sunday Morning Links

    Sun, January 31, 2010 by admin with 1 comment

    Air Force snapped its 22-game losing streak in Mountain West Conference regular season games yesterday, beating Wyoming, 70-63. Junior guard Evan Washington led the way with a career-high 23 points, seven assists and just one turnover. Freshman guard Michael Lyons also chipped in with a nice game.

    Here is the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle’s account of the game and the Casper Star-Tribune’s account.

    My “Rapid Reaction” to the game is in the post below, and David Ramsey – living up to the nickname I gave him, “Mr. Positive” – writes that yesterday was a day of hope for the men’s hoops program. And not only because of what happened at Clune Arena.

    (The women’s hoops program, meanwhile, experienced yet another day of despair. The Lady Falcons were torched by Wyoming, 98-37, on Saturday. That’s right, 98-37. Ninety-eight to thirty-seven.)

    Switching to ice hockey, Air Force skated to a 3-3 tie at Army Saturday.

  • Air Force 70, Wyoming 63 – Rapid Reaction

    Sat, January 30, 2010 by admin with no comments

    Air Force coach Jeff Reynolds caught part of the Gonzaga-Santa Clara game on Thursday night when he got home from the academy.

    A young Santa Clara team, playing at home, led by 11 mid-way through the second half. Its lead was down to five, 64-59, with just less than six minutes to play. And Santa Clara would not score again. Gonzaga ended up winning, 71-64.

    Reynolds could relate.

    “I could see the whole coaching staff knowing it was slipping away because their players seemed to not know how to win,” he said. “I don’t think that’s something you do over night. I think that’s something you have to mature with.”

    Maybe the Falcons finally are learning how to win.

    Last season Air Force lost at home to TCU by three. It lost at home to Colorado State by five. It lost at home to Wyoming by three. It let potential upsets slip away at UNLV, losing 46-43, and BYU, losing 54-49.

    This season the Falcons squandered a second-half lead and lost at TCU. And last week they led UNLV at halftime but could not pull out a victory.

    Today, finally, they found a way to win.

    And while ending the ugly 22-game losing streak in Mountain West Conference regular season games was big, it might have been how they won that was so important. Air Force had a lead in the first half and lost it. And then, after scoring on five straight possessions to go up 49-42, Wyoming went on an 8-0 run to re-take the lead.

    So many times since Air Force’s last regular season Mountain West Conference victory on March 8, 2008, the Falcons had been in similar situations. And wilted. This time, thanks in large part to Evan Washington, they handled adversity and came through when it counted. Washington hit a jumper and then a 3. Freshman Michael Lyons drained a 3 with a good bounce. And then Washington hit six straight free throws (the first four being the front- and back-ends of one-and-ones).

    Yes, it was just one game. It’s not time to break open the champagne. But simply getting a victory, knowing they can find ways to win, could mean the world to this team.

    “I think it will build confidence a lot,” Washington said. “This year I think we have a tougher team than we did last year. Last year we kind of let losing become a part of our mentality. We’ve finally figured out that we have to go into each and every game playing to win. That’s what we did today.”

    Other Thoughts:
    -Reynolds gave an assist to the announced crowd of 3,414 at Clune Arena.

    It was the biggest crowd to watch the Falcons at home during conference play this season. And by far the loudest.

    “Clune got loud today,” Reynolds said. “It got loud today. I don’t know what the attendance was, but I thought about the fans and thanking them for coming out today.”

    -It’s all about the 3.

    When Air Force is hitting from the perimeter, it has a chance to win.

    Today, the Falcons tied a season high by hitting 11 from beyond the 3-point arc. Six players hit 3s, with Michael Lyons nailing 3-of-5, and Evan Washington, Mike Fitzgerald and Todd Fletcher all hitting two apiece.

    Air Force went 11-of-25 from 3-point range in the game (44.0 percent) including 7-of-11 (63.6 percent) in the second half.

    -Already without leading scorer Afam Muojeke (knee), Wyoming did not have starting center Adam Waddell (ankle), who had scored 13 points with 22 rebounds in the Cowboys’ previous game.

    But complaining to Air Force about injuries is like complaining to an Alaskan about the cold. Seven key Falcons have missed a combined 45 games this season, and starting center Sammy Schafer (post-concussion symptoms) and guard/forward Taylor Stewart (wrist) both still are out.

    -Memories from Air Force’s distant past and recent glory days came flooding back at halftime when about 15 former players were introduced to the crowd as part of the program’s homecoming weekend.

    Among those in attendance were 1959 grad Robert Blake, former great big man Randy Gricius, a 1979 grad, and Jacob Burtschi, John Frye and Tim Anderson – key cogs in the Falcons’ great run from 2003 through 2007.

    Tough to say who got the biggest cheer. Either Anderson or Burtschi.

    -Much of the game story I wrote today was about the Falcons wanting to win.

    Don’t doubt their desire.

    It’s 7:56 p.m. as I write this from courtside at Clune. I had thought I was the last person here.

    I’m not.

    Mike McLain came back on the court at about 7:30. He spent some time working on free throws and 3-pointers, some time sprinting up and down the floor and making layups, and some time working on post moves around and through some folding chairs he set up on the floor. Now he’s running sprints from sideline to sideline.

    That’s dedication.

  • UNLV 60, Air Force 50 – Rapid Reaction

    Wed, January 27, 2010 by admin with no comments

    Air Force coach Jeff Reynolds said it best after the game:

    “We competed,” he said. “But that’s still not satisfaction.”

    Indeed, after the Falcons lost four straight by an average of 20 points, it had to be encouraging for them to take a team like UNLV down to the wire – on the Rebels’ home court no less.

    But there won’t be complete satisfaction until competing turns into winning.

    And if it’s going to happen, it’s got to happen in the next two weeks. For two intertwined reasons:

    Reason one: The Falcons finally are relatively healthy. Grant Parker, their top player, is back and now has two games under his belt. That leaves Air Force without just two key players (sophomore center Sammy Schafer and sophomore guard/forward Taylor Stewart). But getting Parker back was key. It changes everything about how Air Force plays offense and, more importantly, how opponents play defense against Air Force.

    Reason two: Look at the schedule.

    Starting Saturday, when the Falcons play a Wyoming team that is without its best player (leading scorer Afam Muojeke is out for the year with a knee injury), Air Force gets the sixth-, seventh- and eighth-place teams in the conference, all at home, in a four-game stretch. After playing Wyoming, the Falcons have a tough road trip to San Diego. But after that are winnable games at home against TCU and Colorado State.

    Air Force needs to cash in on at least one of those games. Or 0-16 becomes a real possibility for the second season in a row.

    Notes:
    -While the key stretch in the game was early in the second half when UNLV scored on eight of 10 possessions (with five 3s in the stretch), another important moment came just before halftime.

    Air Force was up 24-15 with 2:24 left in the first half. But UNLV closed the half on a 6-0 run. So instead of taking a substantial lead to halftime, the Falcons, for as well as they played, were up by one 3-pointer. And some of their momentum was gone.

    Asked if the Falcons need to close halves better, Parker said, “Yeah, we do.

    “And part of that was shot selection. … When they started getting going there, we came down and started taking quick shots, and we can’t do that if we want to beat athletic teams like this. We’ve got to slow down the game and be smart in our shot selection. I took some bad shots too, and I know some other guys did too, and we can’t do that if we’re going to finish a half strong.”

    -Freshman forward/center Taylor Broekhuis entered the game 0-for-15 on the season from 3-point range, and after he missed his first two 3s in the first half on Tuesday night, he passed up a wide open shot from behind the arc late in the half.

    Not only was the shot wide open, it was within the framework of the offense, and Air Force didn’t get a better shot after he passed on it.

    During the next timeout, Reynolds told Broekhuis that he had to shoot the ball in that situation, using a word that I can’t include in the blog to drive home the point.

    The message was received. Five minutes into the second half, Broekhuis took a pass from Todd Fletcher and, without hesitation, squared his shoulders and drained a 3 from the top of the key.

    “I took him out and didn’t start him in the second half because he wouldn’t shoot it,” Reynolds said. “And he’s a good shooter. And hopefully that will help his confidence.”

    -Air Force used its ninth different starting five tonight, and its fourth in six conference games: Fletcher and Evan Washington at the guard spots, Michael Lyons and Mike McLain at the forward spots and Broekhuis at center.

  • Rapid Reaction – Utah 71, Air Force 54

    Sat, January 23, 2010 by admin with no comments

    Grant Parker returned to the Air Force lineup today after missing 10 games.

    That will be helpful to the team.

    It also will be helpful to observers of the team.

    Over the next couple weeks, we’ll start getting a better idea about this Air Force basketball program and what strides – if any – it has made since last season’s debacle.

    It was difficult – and not exactly fair – to judge the Falcons when they had several opening night starters, including their leading scorer, out with injuries.

    With Parker’s return – and, granted, he’s not yet 100 percent – Air Force now is without only center Sammy Schafer and guard/forward Taylor Stewart.

    That’s not ideal, of course, and – granted – it will take a few games for the Falcons to get used to having Parker back in the rotation.

    But the silver lining of the injuries is they’ve allowed some of Air Force’s younger players to get valuable experience. So it’s reasonable to expect the Falcons to improve over the next 11 conference games.

    Other Notes

    -So far, this conference season feels a lot like last conference season. Air Force looks competitive in stretches but eventually loses big.

    The Falcons’ first five conference losses last season came by a total of 77 points. Their first five conference losses this season have come by a total of 89.

    -Utah has quite a player in freshman guard Marshall Henderson. Today he made 6-of-11 shots from the floor (including 4-of-8 3-pointers) en route to a game-high 22 points.

    More than anything, though, I was impressed by his moxie (he didn’t act like a freshman) and his court sense. He just seemed to float to the right place all the time, both on offense and defense.

    -Take away the shooting performances of Michael Lyons (4-of-5) and Evan Washington (3-of-5), and Air Force was 10-of-32 from the floor tonight.

    -A bright spot: Air Force made 17-of-21 free throws. That’s the Falcons’ third-best outing this season and their best when attempting more than 13.