Air Force (14-7) at Nevada (11-11)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, February 9, 6 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Lawlor Events Center (11,536) -- Reno, Nevada. Television: None. Home Record: Air Force 10-1, Nevada 9-4. Away Record: Air Force 3-5, Nevada 2-7. Neutral Record: Air Force 1-1, Nevada 0-0. Conference Record: Air Force 5-3, Nevada 2-6. Series Record: Air Force leads, 1-0.
GAME NOTES: The Nevada Wolf Pack tries to bring an end to a three-game slide on Saturday, as the squad entertains the Air Force Falcons in Mountain West Conference action at the Lawlor Events Center in Reno.
In action on Wednesday night, the Pack tried to keep up with Colorado State at home but came up short in a 73-69 final. With the setback, the seventh in the last nine games for the squad, Nevada is now just 2-6 in the MWC after coming over from the Western Athletic Conference.
Meanwhile, the Falcons took on 15th-ranked New Mexico three nights ago and they too fought hard to stay in contention before the Lobos went on a late run in order to capture a resounding 81-58 victory in The Pit. Air Force had been one of the hottest teams in the MWC with five straight wins before the loss to UNM. Nevertheless, the Falcons are still 5-3 in league play which has them in the top half of the standings.
Air Force won the first meeting of the season a month ago with a 78-65 triumph at home, as Mike Fitzgerald scored a game-high 30 points and pulled down eight rebounds. The Falcons shot 52.2 percent from the floor and 10-of-17 behind the 3-point line in what was the first-ever meeting between the two programs.
It is never easy for an opponent to invade The Pit, but tension was high on Wednesday night as even the coaching staffs from UNM and Air Force got involved with some spirited exchanges. Unfortunately, once it had all subsided the Falcons allowed New Mexico to run away with the win. Air Force was beaten on the glass, 39-24, coming up with just four offensive rebounds compared to 13 for the hosts. Mike Fitzgerald and Michael Lyons both tallied 16 points, which means their teammates combined for only 26 as the group turned the ball over 15 times and shot 7-of-24 behind the 3-point line. Lyons and Fitzgerald are leading the offensive attack in conference play with 16.1 and 13.3 ppg, respectively, although the former is shooting just 28.1 percent beyond the arc, compared to the latter with his 47.8 percent accuracy on the outside. Todd Fletcher checks in with 10.4 ppg and is also a solid shooter on the outside (.429), in addition to having handed out 33 assists in eight league bouts.
Leading by as many as 12 points in the first half against Colorado State earlier this week, the Wolf Pack may have thought it had a chance to take down one of the emerging teams in the MWC, but it just wasn't the case. The Rams easily handled Nevada on the glass, 46-30, coming up with 20 boards at the offensive end of the floor and turning those into 20 points along the way. Giving the hosts some hope was Malik Story who tallied a game-high 31 points, shooting 7-of-11 beyond the arc, but again while Story may have had a strong outing, Deonte Burton did not follow suit as he dropped in just 11 points on 3-of-10 from the floor. The remaining starters combined to shoot 3-of-13 from the field. Story (16.4 ppg) and Burton (16.0 ppg) continue to carry this group as much as they can, but too often they are not at the top of their game at the same time. Defensively, this group continues to let opponents get clean looks from the perimeter where they are hitting on 37.1 percent of their 3- point tries.
The Falcons showed quite a bit of tenacity against UNM the last time out, but that effort may have taken a lot of wind out of their sails. However, as long as the Academy can keep track of Burton and Story and not allow someone else from Nevada to have a big game, this is a win waiting to happen for the visitors.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Air Force 68, Nevada 61
02/09 10:43:36 ET