Air Force fans should feel better about their young and inexperienced men’s basketball team after two losses the past two days than they did during its 5-0 start.
Immediately after Sunday’s 71-62 loss to No. 9 Washington State at the Cougar Hispanic College Fund Challenge in Spokane, Wash., Falcons coach Jeff Reynolds said the game “was not a moral victory.” Players also shied away from that term.
Maybe that’s a good thing. No reason to try to feel good about losses.
Still, there were things about which the Falcons could feel good. On Saturday they stormed back from a 23-point second half deficit, pulling within one of Montana before losing, 59-57. On Sunday, in front of a hostile crowd, Air Force gave the nation’s ninth-ranked team its toughest test of the tournament.
For a team that lost an Oct. 31 exhibition game to Brock – a Canadian university with no scholarship players – that’s what you call progress. Big-time progress.
Now, there still are some significant concerns – most notably the Falcons’ depth. Not including reserves Eric Kenzik and Andrew Henke (a de facto starter), Air Force’s reserves have scored just 24 points this year – 5.5 percent of the team’s total output.
Reynolds is searching for some more dependable bench players – specifically guards who can ease some of senior Tim Anderson’s burden. Anderson, who played all but two minutes of Sunday’s game, is averaging 34.6 minutes per game. That's a pace that could wear him out mid-way through conference play.
In addition, there should be some concern that Air Force plays to the level of its competition – and that’s great against Washington State, but it could come back to bite the Falcons later in their non-conference schedule.
But this past weekend – especially Sunday – should give fans more hope for the season.
“I think we played hard,” Henke said. “I guess we can’t be too disappointed in ourselves because we knew we played our butts off the whole game, played hard the whole game and pushed a very, very good team to the limit.”