LOGAN – The last time Air Force played Utah State in basketball, the Falcons left town with a 79-60 loss, the first of eight-straight. The rough stretch put the Academy at the bottom of the conference standings, but things have changed for since then.
While still not winning every game, the Falcons have some turned some things around. Just look at some of the differences:
A 12-point loss to Wyoming turned into a 70-62 win when the Cowboys visited Colorado Springs. A 29-point loss to New Mexico became a four-point win at home less than a month later. It was even more dramatic with UNLV. The Falcons lost by 36 at home, but were able to go into Las Vegas and win by four at the Thomas & Mack. The Falcons are currently riding a four-game home winning streak.
USU head coach Tim Duryea noticed the difference.
“They have played tremendously well at home,” he said. “The last three weeks or so, they have played well everywhere. They are playing with total confidence and with total knowledge of their system and that takes time to learn. The force they are playing with offensively right now is really impressive to watch, how hard they cut, how crisp they pass it is really carving teams up right now.”
But the Aggies have had a sort-of turnaround too. After losing five-straight the Aggies picked up two big wins at home before going on the road and dropping close games to Fresno State and Nevada. They responded with what Duryea called the “most lopsided win” of the season.
“We were aggressive and playing together and making the extra pass which resulted in a lot of easy shots and we knocked them down,” he said. “Defensively, we were able to stand up in both of our defenses we played and did a good job on the boards and limited them to one shot. It is going to take that and more to get a win there tomorrow night.”
Duryea said that Air Force has adjusted its lineup. He said Frank Toohey, who plays at the five, is now getting most of the minutes at that position. Hayden Graham, who leads the team with 14.1 points per game, moved from the three to the four.
“Overall, they are smaller and faster and shooting the ball well from the 3-point line, not so much inside the arc so you have to guard the 3-point line and take that away from them in order to have a chance to win.”
After tomorrow night’s 7 p.m. game, the team will return to Logan for its last game of the season, a Saturday night game against Fresno State.