UW-Air Force postgame thoughts

In last Saturday’s loss to UNLV, Wyoming men’s basketball coach Larry Shyatt said he didn’t think his team displayed the type of energy and effort it has showed all season.

After Tuesday’s 72-66 road loss to Air Force, Shyatt had more critical words for his guys.

“That was one of the most embarrassing defensive performances that I’ve been a part of in 40 years as a head coach or an assistant — at any level,” he said. “I thought the game was won and lost on that end of the floor.

“I don’t want to point fingers, but I will compliment (Air Force’s) attack. I thought there was some trying, but not enough.”

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UW-Air Force Q&A

WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi did a question-and-answer session with Brent Briggeman, who covers Air Force men’s basketball for The Gazette in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Wyoming (18-9 overall, 4-9 Mountain West) plays at Air Force (15-10, 6-6) at 7 tonight at Clune Arena at the Air Force Academy.

Question: Air Force won’t win the Mountain West regular-season title, but remains in the hunt for an upper-half finish. Are the Falcons one of the best stories in the conference after being picked to finish last in the preseason?

Answer: The team clearly thinks it is. Coach Dave Pilipovich has used those conference predictions as a constant motivator throughout the season, posting them in the locker room where they are an ever-present reminder of what others think of the team. The improved performance has led to some of the biggest crowds since Air Force’s NCAA Tournament teams of the mid-2000s. It’s always tricky to build programs at the academy between the academic standards, the disadvantage of not being able to add transfers and the post-graduate military commitment, so anytime a revenue sport can enjoy a resurgence it tends to be a big deal around the institution.

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MW men’s basketball power rankings

WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi ranks the nine Mountain West men’s basketball teams. Included are their records and Rating Percentage Index according to RealTimeRPI.com, and rankings are from The Associated Press poll. Look for these rankings every week during the conference season.

Let him know what you think about these rankings — good or bad.

1. No. 14 New Mexico (23-4 overall, 10-2 MW, 3 RPI): The Lobos did what nobody else has been able to do — win at Colorado State. The 91-82 win last Saturday not only snapped the Rams’ 27-game home winning streak, but it gave New Mexico at two-game lead in the conference standings with four to play. Junior guard Kendall Williams vaulted himself into a Player of the Year candidate in the league (if he wasn’t already) with 46 points.

2. UNLV (21-7 overall, 8-5 MW, 14 RPI): The Rebels may be hitting their stride down the stretch, and are tied with New Mexico for the longest winning streak in the conference at three. A 61-59 home win over Colorado State last week was impressive. The Rebels still have the most talented roster in the league. They won just their second conference road game last week at Wyoming. To stay this high in the rankings, they can’t lose at Nevada Saturday.

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MW men’s basketball power rankings

WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi ranks the nine Mountain West men’s basketball teams. Included are their records and Rating Percentage Index according to RealTimeRPI.com, and rankings are from The Associated Press poll. Look for these rankings every week during the conference season.

Let him know what you think about these rankings — good or bad.

1. No. 16 New Mexico (22-4 overall, 9-2 MW, 3 RPI): Remains No. 1 this week with a half-game lead over Colorado State. Junior guard Kendall Williams leads the conference in minutes played and is second in assists (4.67 per game). Other than sophomore center Alex Kirk’s 1.64 blocked shots per game (second in the conference), no other player ranks in the top five in statistical categories it tracks. Shows that this is one of the most complete teams in the conference with several players that can hurt teams. The Lobos play at Colorado State Saturday.

2. No. 22 Colorado State (21-4 overall, 8-2 MW, 13 RPI): If the Rams are going to win the league title, this could be the pivotal week with games at UNLV Wednesday and at home against New Mexico Saturday where they have won 27 straight. A road win at Air Force last week was impressive, but one at UNLV would be even bigger. New Mexico may be the most complete team in the conference, but the Rams arguably have the best starting five, all of which are seniors.

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MW men’s basketball power rankings

WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi ranks the nine Mountain West men’s basketball teams. Included are their records and Rating Percentage Index according to RealTimeRPI.com, and rankings are from The Associated Press poll. Look for these rankings every week during the conference season.

Let him know what you think about these rankings — good or bad.

1. New Mexico (19-3 overall, 6-1 MW, 5 RPI): Best overall and conference record, and the highest RPI. Tough to go against those three factors. The only team in the conference with a winning road conference record (2-1), and is 5-2 on the road overall. Best team in the league, without a doubt, right now, even though it doesn’t have any eye-popping statistics.

2. Colorado State (18-4 overall, 5-2 MW, 15 RPI): A 26-game home winning streak, a starting lineup with five seniors and the best rebounding team in the conference — and one of the best in the country. As stated in previous weeks, the Rams need a big conference road win. It plays at Nevada tonight — a game it should win.

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UW-Air Force pregame notes

About an hour before tip-off between the Wyoming and Air Force men’s basketball teams, and the number to watch tonight: 70.

UW has yet to allow an opponent to score 70 or more points this season. Meanwhile, Air Force is 9-2 when it scores 70 or more points this season, and 2-4 when it doesn’t.

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UW-Air Force Q&A

Air Force men’s basketball beat writer Brent Briggeman of the Colorado Springs Gazette exchanged email questions and answers with WyoSports about tonight’s game with the University of Wyoming at the Arena-Auditorium in Laramie.

Look for Q&As with writers who cover UW’s Mountain West foes throughout the conference season.

 Question: What are some of the biggest differences in the program now with Dave Pilipovich as coach, compared to former coach Jeff Reynolds, and how have the players accepted that?

Answer: Pilipovich has sped up the offense. In the past, Air Force would intentionally wait until 10 to 12 seconds remained on the shot clock to start looking to score. That slow-down mentality has been scrapped. “We still run the Princeton offense; we just run it faster,” Pilipovich said. The results have been obvious on the scoreboard, with Air Force scoring 90 points in consecutive games for the first time in 14 years. The players, naturally, seem to like it, but what college basketball player would object to being told to play faster and more instinctively?

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MW men’s basketball power rankings

WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi ranks the nine Mountain West men’s basketball teams. Included are their records and Rating Percentage Index according to RealTimeRPI.com, and rankings are from The Associated Press poll. Look for these rankings every week during the conference season.

Let him know what you think about these rankings — good or bad.

1. No. 15 New Mexico (16-2 overall, 3-0 MW, 8 RPI): The only undefeated team in league play after two weeks, and the only team in the AP poll. The Lobos also have the conference’s longest winning streak at three, which says a lot about how tough all the teams are. Faces a big home game tonight against Colorado State where both teams are equally as good in the backcourt and frontcourt.

2. Colorado State (15-3, 2-1, 17 RPI): An overtime loss at San Diego State is the only conference loss. This is the most veteran team in the league, and perhaps the most physical. Senior and first-year center Colton Iverson and senior forward Pierce Hornung combine to average 19.1 rebounds per game, and the Rams are the conference’s best rebounding team. CSU needs a signature road win in league play, and tonight it gets a shot at New Mexico.

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MW men’s hoops power rankings

WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi ranks the nine Mountain West men’s basketball teams. Included are their records and Rating Percentage Index according to RealTimeRPI.com. Look for these rankings every Tuesday during the conference season.

Let him know what you think about these first rankings heading into league play.

1. San Diego State (12-2, RPI 42): The most complete team in the MW with a good mixture of veterans and newcomers. The Aztecs’ two losses have been against top 10 teams (Syracuse and Arizona), and they are the highest ranked MW team in both polls at 15th (coaches) and 16th (AP). They are second in the MW in scoring defense (57.9 ppg) and field-goal percentage defense (38.1 percent).

2. UNLV (13-2, RPI 24): The elbow injury to junior forward Mike Moser hasn’t slowed the Rebels down much, and they also are in the top 25 in both polls (19th coaches) and 24 (AP). Freshman forward Anthony Bennett leads the league in scoring (19.9 ppg) and is third in rebounding (9.1 rpg) and blocked shots (1.47 bpg). UNLV also leads the MW in assists (18 apg) and steals (9.13 spg).

3. Wyoming (13-0, RPI 25): The Cowboys broke into the top 25 in the coaches poll Monday, and are ranked for the first time since 1988. UW will be more challenged to win games without senior guard and second-leading scorer Luke Martinez. Still, the Cowboys lead the MW in scoring defense (54.6 ppg). Senior forward Leonard Washington, the MW Player of the Week, has emerged as a Player of the Year candidate.

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UW-Air Force postgame thoughts

Can’t sugar-coat this one folks, this was Wyoming’s worst loss of the season so far.

A 12-2 start and 24-10 first-half lead evaporated and turned into a 58-53 home loss to Air Force, which fired its coach last week and had lost seven straight games.

“We did not have an urgency, we didn’t not have a connectedness and we didn’t’t have an energy. There was no energy in the building,” coach Larry Shyatt said.

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