The Wild and Wacky Mountain West Conference. New Mexico, with a bye day, sits alone at the top of the conference at 3-0, CSU in second at 2-1 but four teams to include Air Force are all tied for third at 2-2. Let’s look at the MWC season so far: At one time or another SDSU, NM, UNLV and (in one poll) Wyoming have all been ranked nationally with Boise State and Colorado State receiving votes.
But to date, with the exception of NM who has not lost, it has been an interesting debut to the conference season. SDSU beats CSU, UNLV beats SDSU, NM win at Boise in OT after Boise St beats undefeated Wyoming on the road, UNLV beat AF in OT, wins at SDSU then loses to CSU, AF loses at CSU but then beats Boise St, Wyoming loses at home to Boise St but then upsets SDSU. Who’s on first?
Air Force played two games this week and they were as different as night and day. In game one on Wednesday the Falcons went on the road up I-25 to play CSU in Fort Collins. In one of their worst defeats in history, the Falcons lose that game by 39pts. First and foremost, kudos to CSU for playing a dominate game on both ends of the court. Their bigs, particularly Iverson, dominated the inside and the glass. The passing game of the CSU offense reminded me of other teams, the teams of the 2003-2004 NCAA Falcons and the 2006-2007 NIT-Semi Finals Falcons. CSU got it done on the offensive end with crisp passing, very little dribbling and then the superb low post play inside the lane. Exceptional also was the connection between Hornung and Iverson in playing off one another. On defense the Rams physically out played the Falcons. Air Force began the game with three backdoor cuts in our offense, two by Fitzgerald and one by Taylor Broekhuis. CSU's coach called a time out in which (my guess only) he told his guys to "get physical and stop the cutter". Never again did Air Force have success across the lane or finding the backdoor cut consistently. A very good game and plan by CSU.
While not much good came out of that game, there are some individual performances to highlight. Sophomore Marek Olesinski may have played his most physical game and I actually thought he played tougher and meaner than he has. He played physical versus the 270# Iverson, looked to put a body on the big guys and went to the glass. He was 3-3 inside the lane on shots (missed 2 3pt shots) and had 2 rebounds in 16 minutes. I thought the physical play of DeLovell Earls, Justin Hammonds and Kam Williams showed great effort, especially DeLovell who fought hard against Iverson despite the size difference. Tre' Coggins continues to work and had a team high 3 rebounds.
Fast forward to Saturday’s game and AF (9-6/1-2) met the Boise State Bronco’s (13-3/1-1) at Clune Arena. In a very good game at Clune Arena at the Air Force Academy, the Falcons bounce back after a loss in their last game to win over Boise State 91-80. Air Force, playing healthy for the first time in three games took the lead into the locker room at halftime and never let it go. Boise State, coming off a tough OT loss to New Mexico, was playing without second leading scorer Jeff Elorriaga (out for a possible concussion suffered in their loss to NM) and sixth leading scorer, Kenny Buckner, who was sitting out a game due to suspension.
Player of the game for AF was an easy choice. Mike Lyons had a career high 37 points on an exceptional night FG 13-18, 3-pt, 3-5 FT 8-8, 6 reb, 3 assists and 2 steals in 38 minutes. 'And' he played aggressive defense all night long. Fitzgerald continued his solid play with 17 points on 5-7 shooting, 1-2 3pt and 6-7 from the FT line plus a career high 8 assists. Numerous other players to talk about but Kam Williams had 5 rebounds which helped stop BSU runs and Marek Olesinkis' two 3pt makes were timely. Overall a very good win for Air Force trying to hold serve and the home court advantage. They finish week two at 2-2 and are in a 4 way tie with UNLV, SDSU and Wyoming for third place in the MWC. NM sits at the top at 3-0 with CSU, after beating UNLV tonight, second at 2-1.
Notes: Kudos to the Boise State coach, staff and players who stayed on the court after the game while the third verse to the Air Force song was played that honors those that have gone before us in service to our country.
Wins/Upsets/Losses Saturday night:
AF wins at home over BSU 91-90
#15 SDSU loses at Wyoming 58-45 in an upset
#25 UNLV loses at second place CSU 66-61
Nevada plays the late game that just started at Fresno State.