Check out these stat lines: 15 of 20 field goal attempts, 8 of 11 three-point field goal attempts, 10 of 10 free throws. Those were the combined totals of seniors Mike Fitzgerald and Todd Fletcher as the Air Force Falcons opened their Mountain West season with a 78-65 win over conference newcomer Nevada. Fitzgerald only missed one three-point attempt for the night. His career high of 30 points was 11 better than his previous best. Oh, and he led the team with 8 rebounds. Fletcher finished with 18 points, just 2 shy of his career best.
On a night when leading scorer Mike Lyons was held to just 3 points on 1 of 8 shooting, Air Force played a nearly flawless second half, breaking open a game that they trailed by three at halftime. "It shows that we don't have just two or three good players. We're fifteen strong," Fitzgerald said. "It was just one of those days. I was feelin'it."
Fletcher hit the Falcons' first basket of the night, then Fitzgerald scored their next seven points. But the first ten minutes of the game were very sloppy on both sides. By then Air Force had seven turnovers, Nevada had five, and the Wolf Pack led 10-9. Nevada then stretched the lead to 17-9 before the Falcons started to chip away. Fletcher hit a three just before half to make the score 33-30 Nevada.
In the second the Falcons came out blazing. In the first five minutes they hit five of their first six shots, including all four three-pointers. Fletcher hit the first, then Fitzgerald hit three straight to put Air Force up 44-41. By the 11:46 mark they had built the lead to 55-43, and although Nevada would trim the margin to four shortly after, the Falcons never wavered, eventually pulling away to a 76-56 lead when Fitzgerald hit his last three with 2:46 left.
"We're hungry to get a lot more wins this year," Fletcher said. "At first the game was just moving a little quicker for us. We were looking for things that weren't there. In the second half we settled down. We knew what we had to do on offense and defense."
"We did a better job in the second half of taking care of the ball," added head coach Dave Pilipovich. Air Force committed just four turnovers in the second half, after having ten at halftime.
Seniors Fitzgerald, Fletcher, Lyons, and Taylor Broekhuis hardly left the floor in the second half. "They wanted to be on the floor. That's what you want from your seniors," Pilipovich said.
The Falcons are now 9-4 on the season after breaking a two-game skid. Next up is a road game against #24 UNLV on Saturday. The next home game is against Boise State on the 19th.
Nevada joined the West Coast Conference in the fall of 1969. The Mountain West is now the 5th league they have been a part of since that time. They now have lost all five opening games when changing conferences.
The Falcon hockey team returns home this weekend with a set against Army. Game times are at 7pm on Friday, and 4pm on Saturday. The Black Knights are currently second in Atlantic Hockey with a 7-4-2 league record. They have lost all their nonconference games and are 7-9-2 overall. The Falcons are 4-5-2, currently eighth in the AHA, and 6-9-4 overall.
"We have the semblance of a team right now. We didn't have that early," said head coach Frank Serratore. "The guys are together, the spirit's there, the work ethic is there. When service academy teams play each other, you can bet the enthusiasm, the passion, and the effort will all be there."