UW-Air Force men’s hoops 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., about Wednesday’s game with the University of Wyoming at the Air Force Academy. Tip-off is at 7 p.m.

Follow on Twitter: @BrentBrigeman

Air Force’s roster turned over quite a bit from last season, but the team has played solid at 9-8 overall and 3-3 in the Mountain West. Who has stepped up their game or role the most so far?

Tre’ Coggins is the obvious answer, as he has turned into something of a revelation as a scorer at the point guard position. But Kamryn Williams has been the biggest difference maker. Wyoming saw the best game of his career last season (25 and 10), so it’s probably not as shocking for the Cowboys’ fan base, but Williams ability to rebound, disrupt shots and defend has helped Air Force compete in ways that it could not last year.

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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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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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UW-Air Force postgame thoughts

Can it get any worse for the Wyoming men’s basketball team?

Yes it can.

The Cowboys lost 72-51 at Air Force Saturday afternoon at Clune Arena, and the same problems reared their ugly heads: offense and perimter defense.

UW shot just 37.9 percent from the field, and allowed Air Force to make 11 of 19 3s. The Cowboys got to the free-throw line six times and were 4 of 23 from 3-point range.

“We flew at the shooters and they made some contested shots,” UW coach Heath Schroyer said. “I thought our kids played pretty hard. … But when you get down against them, they can hit a couple of 3 that will break your back.”

UW trailed by as many as 15 in the first half, and 23 late in the game.

Six of Air Force’s 3s came from the corner, which seems like nearly ever 3 is made from by the opponents. This continues to be a problem in UW’s zone defense, but Schroyer and Co. is sticking with the zone. I didn’t see any man-to-man defense in this game, and you would think this would be a game where UW physically matches up a little better than other squads in the MWC.

I thought sophomore forward Amath M’Baye had a nice game with 13 points and seven rebounds. He looked good around the basket. And sophomore forward Brian Gibson had six rebounds in 13 minutes off the bench. he missed three shots in the paint. But he plays hard and he can rebound.

I was really impressed with Air Force sophomore guard Michael Lyons. He led all scorers with 17 points, all in the first half. He’s long and athletic and a pretty good athlete. Senior guard Evan Washington may have had the most impressive line: 11 points, nine assists, six rebounds, one blocked shot and only one turnover in 36 minutes. Sophomore guard Todd Fletcher, who averaged 4.6 points per game coming in, scored 13 and was 3 of 6 from behind the arc.

Seems like a lot of players have career games against the Cowboys these days.

Injuries weren’t a factor in this game for UW. Everyone played who should have played. The Cowboys just got beat, and beat bad.

Hate to think what UNLV, No. 6 San Diego State and No. 9 BYU will do to this team in the next three games.

For more on the Air Force game, see Sunday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle www.wyomingnews.com and Laramie Boomerang www.laramieboomerang.com