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Mountain West Notebook: Air Force Is a Scoring Machine

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Pilipovich has changed the Falcons’ offensive style

Air Force basketball coach Dave Pilipovich summed up Air Force’s offensive explosion on Saturday in a 91-80 win over Boise State about the only way he could.


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“It was really just one of those days,” he said.

And that’s what Saturday was in the Mountain West.

On the same day the San Diego State Aztecs were held to a league-record low nine points in the first half of their loss at Wyoming, the Falcons went completely against their identity and exploded for their first 91-point effort ever in a MW game.

“91 points in the last couple years,” Pilipovich said, “that may be three games for us.”

The effort was powered by a career-high 37 points from senior guard Michael Lyons who was dropping in shots while falling down, banking in contested 3-pointers early and simply couldn’t seem to miss.

“No matter what he threw up, it was going to go in,” Pilipovich said.

But it wasn’t all just dumb luck.

Air Force averaged a league-low 61.6 points per game in 2011-12 and is averaging 73.6 points through 16 games this season.


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The Falcons (10-6 overall, 2-2 MW) are changing how they do things this season with a senior-dominated roster that has plenty of very solid shooters.

Whereas in years past the Falcons were intentionally deliberate on offense, this version can score in a hurry if teams aren’t getting back on defensive in transition.

“We wanted to play a little bit more up tempo,” Pilipovich said. “… We looked back on tape of the last couple years and we’d get late in the shot clock and we would force up a shot or get a bad shot. I’ll take a good shot early rather than forcing a bad one late.”

SAN DIEGO STATE: The Aztecs (14-4, 2-2) entered the second week of Mountain West play as the league’s highest-ranked team in both the Associated Press and USA Today Coaches Top 25 polls.

Then they lost at home to UNLV and on the road to Wyoming in a game they scored just nine points in the first half and found themselves out of the AP poll and at No. 25 in the coaches poll.

“Not a very good week for the Aztecs,” coach Steve Fisher said.

And while the UNLV loss hurt because it was at home, it was to a UNLV team that many feel has Final Four type talent. The 58-45 Wyoming loss was a bitter pill to swallow as the Aztecs shot just 28.8 percent from the floor and hit only four shots in the first half for a record-low nine points.

“We didn’t shoot very well and you have to find other ways to be successful when you don’t shoot very well,” Fisher said.

BOISE STATE: The Broncos (13-4, 1-2) answered their overtime home loss to UNM with an embarrassing road loss at Air Force.

The Broncos have yet to play a league game with their full roster, missing guys either to injury or suspension.

Junior guard Jeff Elorriaga, who scored 11 points against UNM, hit his head late and suffered a concussion against the Lobos. He did not make the trip to Air Force, but was said to be much better on Monday.

“Jeff’s doing great,” Leon Rice said. “He’s made good progress.”

NEVADA: Malik Story, Nevada’s 6-foot-5 senior guard who averaged 16.8 points per game in the non-conference, was in as bad a shooting slump as you can be in his team’s first two games in the MW.

As Nevada (10-7, 1-2) lost at Air Force and vs. Wyoming in the first week, Story hit just 3-of-21 shots from the field (14.3 percent) and was 1-of-11 from the 3-point line (9.1 percent) while averaging 4.5 points per game.

In Saturday’s road win at Fresno State, Story found his confidence at the free throw line, sinking 11-of-12, and scored a game-high 24 points on 5-of-12 shooting, including 3-of-6 from beyond the arc.

“I thought he did a good job of getting to the free throw line,” Nevada coach David Carter said. “… I think it’s just shot selection for him and confidence and I thought he really had a lot of confidence on Saturday.”

Between Burton and Story, Nevada is still a team that scares many coaches in this league despite their current position at the bottom of the league’s standings.

“(They’re) as good a guard combination as there is in the league,” Fisher said.

Burton and Story combined for 46 of Nevada’s points and hit 23-of-27 free throws in a 68-61 win over the Bulldogs.

COLORADO STATE: Rams’ senior guard Dorian Green was named on Monday the MW Player of the Week after averaging 14.5 points, 4.0 rebounds and 6.0 assists in two league games last week — wins over Air Force and UNLV.

It is Green’s first weekly honor in his career and the fourth of this season for CSU (15-3, 2-1).

LOBOS LINKS: Roster | Schedule/Results | Geoff Grammer’s blog

— This article appeared on page D2 of the Albuquerque Journal