Yes, Air Force was facing the worst team in the Mountain West Conference – one that had lost 12 straight.
And, OK, the Rams are using some players who probably are better suited for intramurals than Division I basketball.
And, sure, Moby Arena with less than 4,000 fans – and more than a few supporting the Falcons – isn't The Pit or Cameron Indoor Stadium.
But don’t underestimate the importance of Air Force’s 61-59 victory over the Rams on Saturday, especially the way the Falcons won.
Without their best stuff.
Air Force missed 14 of its first 17 3-pointers, including some wide open looks that the Rams almost dared them to take. “I haven’t seen the tape,” Air Force coach Jeff Reynolds said a few minutes after the game, “but I would have to say that every shot we took that was a 3 was wide open, they just didn’t go in.”
In addition, Tim Anderson struggled again, going 3-for-8 from the field, and the Rams shot the lights out early, building confidence and momentum with every 3.
But, like a fighter who finds himself a step slow in a bout, Air Force hung on and did its best to minimize the Rams’ punishment. The Falcons saved their energy and, when given openings, unleashed flurries of points to steal momentum.
Yes, it was Colorado State. But good teams don’t lose to cellar-dwelling squads, and they find ways to win even when things aren’t going exactly right. Air Force is trying to become a good team, and Saturday was a big step in the right direction.
-After Saturday’s games, the Falcons are 6-7 in the Mountain West Conference and in sixth place, a half-game in front of TCU (5-7) and a half-game behind Utah (6-6).
The top of the conference is tight too, as BYU (10-2) leads second-place UNLV (9-3) by a game. The Runnin’ Rebels have a half-game lead on surging New Mexico (9-4), which leads San Diego State (8-5) by a game.
So Air Force’s first-round opponent in the conference tourney is still up in the air. I think the best match-up for the Falcons might be the Aztecs and after that – crazy as it sounds – UNLV. The Runnin’ Rebels will play on their home floor in the tourney, but they are the one team Air Force matches up with size-wise. And the Falcons have given UNLV fits of late, winning at home and pushing UNLV to the brink on the road.
Utah is a pretty good possibility as an opponent, and I think Air Force might like another shot at the Utes. The one team I think the Falcons do not want to see is New Mexico.
-Eric Kenzik played his second straight solid game for the Falcons Saturday. He scored just six points in 10 minutes, but his pair of 3-pointers helped keep Air Force afloat in the first half when Colorado State couldn’t seem to miss from the perimeter.
-The game’s top highlight, in my opinion? Andrew Henke trying to throw down a dunk over 7-foot Stuart Creason. Henke didn’t quite jam it, but he picked up the foul and somehow banked the ball in anyway.
-Just eight turnovers for Air Force on Saturday. That means in three of the past five games, the Falcons have made eight or less.