Thursday, February 7, 2008

San Diego State Review

Air Force men's basketball coach Jeff Reynolds hates when his team is compared to the academy’s record-breaking 2006-07 squad.

For good reason. That team featured six experienced seniors, four of whom were starters who had played together for years and were the common thread in the academy’s resurgence.

But in the spirit of keeping things in perspective, consider this: Last year’s team, with all its talent and experience, was blown out at San Diego State by 21 points.

This year’s team lost by 11. But more importantly, the Falcons played with the most heart and tenacity I’ve seen this year. The defense was intense and in-your-face and made the Aztecs work hard. And I liked the team’s demeanor from the morning shootaround to warm-ups to the game. Focused, confident and all business.

Of course none of the above matters without some buckets.

Air Force struggled mightily to score Wednesday night against the Aztecs, making just 13 of 42 shots from the floor and just 4 of 18 3-pointers for 38 points – its second-lowest total of the year. So in four conference losses, the Falcons have managed 36, 44, 53 and 38 points on a combined 51-of-158 shooting (32.3 percent) from the floor, including 21-of-75 shooting (28 percent) from 3-point range.

That’s not going to get it done. Reynolds knows it.

“At this stage of the game, I think we’ve got to become better offensively if we’re going to make a push in the league,” he said. “We’ve got to do that. I think we’re sound and solid defensively, but when you score 38 points and you shoot 31 percent from the field (as the Falcons did against San Diego State), you’re not going to win a lot of games in this league.”

Reynolds also was disappointed Air Force didn’t get to the free-throw line more. The Falcons attempted 13, but “we never got into the bonus until almost the game was over,” he said.

It’s been said before, but junior guard Anwar Johnson has to find a way to finish around the rim. He is so gifted athletically and has made some incredible moves to scoot past defenders and contort himself to the rim. But then – almost as if he doesn’t know what to do once he gets there – he misses the layup or the dunk. He and freshman Evan Washington, who went scoreless for the second straight game after scoring in each of the Falcons’ first 19, combined to shoot 0-for-9.

So offense is a problem, but if you had told me earlier this year that Air Force would be 4-4 at the midway point of league play, I wouldn’t have believed you – especially after the debacle at Utah.

Air Force has a favorable schedule the rest of the way, playing five of its eight remaining games at Clune Arena. If the Falcons can hold serve at home and steal a game on the road, they likely won’t win the league, but they’ll have succeeded in shocking it – their goal all along.


Anonymous said...

Jake....good take on the game .... I was up there with the few Falcon faithful (behind you and two rows behind the 4 bozo's who had obviously had a few soda pops before the game). An exceptional defensive game played who kept control of SD and limited them to only 40+ pts on their home court. With the exception of letting a big man get a free pass and dunk 3 times in the game, it was a very good job. Don't know the key but something has to be turned 'on' with this team and shooting. SDSU defense was good and tight with a lot of hand checking (but no fouls called) but WE DID get open looks and layups. a) could not put it in the net b) could not finish. I'm proud of the Falcons who have already surprised many with 2 wins out of 5 away games and winning 2 of our 3 home games with the only loss to leader BYU. ltc

Stats Dr said...


As always, another great blog. I also really enjoyed reading your story on AF Football recruiting. Its always fun to read your stuff, and I'm glad we've got you writing about Air Force!

The guys on the BB are finding their way and maturing as a team. The shots will fall, maybe just not as soon as we want them too...

jake.schaller said...

Yeah, I think the key in the second half -- as it's been all season -- is the shooting. When the guys are knocking down shots they're pretty good. When they're not, they struggle. If they could get some more buckets in the lane on drives (Anwar, but others too), I think it would take a lot of pressure off the perimeter shooting.
We'll see. Saturday's game against Utah will be very, very interesting.