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  • Tuesday Morning Links

    Tue, March 2, 2010 by admin with no comments

    Air Force faces Wyoming tonight at Arena-Auditorium in Laramie in its second-to-last regular season game of the 2009-10 season. Senior guard Saj El-Amin likely won’t play much – he’s played in just 10 minutes in three games this season – but he’s had a big influence on the Falcons.

    El-Amin played for the Falcons’ football team in the fall. Neither the Air Force sports information folks nor Troy Calhoun could think off the top of their heads of another academy athlete who played football and hoops in the same academic year. Anyone have a name of someone who did it before El-Amin?

    Anyway, here are my 3 Things to Watch in tonight’s game, which will be the last for Wyoming senior Ryan Dermody. For more information on the Pokes, check out The Wyoming Tribune-Eagle’s Wyoming blog.

    Also in today’s edition of The Gazette, Frank Schwab looks at Air Force fencer Peter French, whose skill is matched by his sportsmanship.

  • 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.

  • Saturday Morning Links

    Sat, January 30, 2010 by admin with no comments

    The Air Force men’s basketball team is composed of some really nice guys. But are the Falcons too nice on the court?

    I explore in my article in today’s edition of The Gazette. Also, here are my 3 Things to Watch in this afternoon’s game against Wyoming.

    Switching to ice hockey, Air Force lost at Army last night, 4-2.

    Finally, coming next week is an in-depth look at the members of Air Force’s recruiting class. Looks like the Falcons are putting together another good one.

  • Friday Morning Links

    Fri, January 29, 2010 by admin with 1 comment

    Air Force will look to snap its 22-game losing streak in Mountain West Conference regular season play on Saturday against Wyoming.

    The Cowboys lost their top scorer, Afam Muojeke, to a season-ending knee injury but defeated Utah on Wednesday.

    Wyoming Tribune-Eagle columnist Robert Gagliardi wrote about how the Cowboys made up for losing Muojeke against the Utes. So did the Casper Star-Tribune in this piece.

  • 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.

  • Sunday Morning Links

    Sun, December 20, 2009 by admin with no comments

    The Air Force men’s basketball team fell to 5-4 last night with a 60-52 loss to Northern Arizona. My notes, which deal in part with Derek Brooks’ return and the Falcons’ injuries, can be found at this link. My “Rapid Reaction” from last night is in the post below.

    Switching to football, Wyoming staged a comeback to force overtime in yesterday’s New Mexico Bowl and then defeated Fresno State in two overtimes.

    Much has been made of Air Force potentially breaking into the top three in the Mountain West Conference. That should be a goal. But for the Falcons, holding off the teams that have finished below them in coach Troy Calhoun’s first three seasons is going to become a greater and greater challenge. Dave Christensen is going to get it going at Wyoming, I think, and Brady Hoke’s going to do the same at San Diego State. And I don’t see Colorado State finishing in last place again.