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Air Force basketball loses ugly to Fresno State in makeup game from government shutdown

February 26, 2018 Updated: February 27, 2018 at 8:01 am
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photo - Air Force head coach Dave Pilipovich, right, reacts to a call against his team in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Utah State, Saturday, Feb. 24, 2018, at Air Force Academy, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Air Force head coach Dave Pilipovich, right, reacts to a call against his team in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Utah State, Saturday, Feb. 24, 2018, at Air Force Academy, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski) 

Even the ugliest of basketball games would have shielded their eyes from this one.

This looked every bit like what it was, a makeup game shoehorned into the closing week on the schedule after originally being wiped out by a government shutdown.

Fresno State, which had to turn around and go home when the January game was canceled, returned to Air Force and won 54-48 on Monday night.

The Bulldogs shot 33.9 percent, knocked down just 3-of-14 3-pointers and turned it over 14 times.

And, remember, that was the winning team.

Air Force shot 28.6 percent, made 4-of-22 3s, turned it over 18 times and despite missing 35 shots was only able to secure seven offensive rebounds and turn them into six second-chance points.

“Hard to watch,” Falcons coach Dave Pilipovich said.

Despite it all, Air Force was in it late and had so many avenues it could have taken to really make it interesting. In the final five minutes, when Air Force twice cut the deficit to five, the Falcons missed five free throws. They closed both halves on 2-for-10 skids.

And one of the three 3-pointers Fresno State (21-9, 11-6 Mountain West) hit was a Sam Bittner desperation heave from well behind the line that banked in as the shot-clock expired.

This is one that Air Force (11-17, 5-11) could dissect to the nth degree if it had the time to do that. After all, this was a chance to knock off the No. 3 team in the conference if just a few of those plays had gone differently. But time is a luxury this team doesn’t have with a third game in five days looming on Wednesday in Wyoming.

“You can’t use (the schedule) as an excuse,” said Air Force’s Trevor Lyons, who posted a double-double with 11 points and a career-high 10 rebounds. “They even played a later game than we did on Saturday and they had to travel and everything else. … They just came in here and carried out their game plan and got a win. They slowed the game down and carried out their game plan, which made it ugly for us. We’re not used to playing that slow.”

Air Force’s 48 points matched a season-low and were the fewest for the Falcons at home since a 77-45 loss to San Diego State on Jan. 20, 2015.

“It was just real slow-paced, a low-possession game,” said sophomore Caleb Morris, who led Air Force with 12 points. “In those type of games you’ve got to play the best you can with those possessions. If not, it’s magnified.”

Pilipovich said a play that stood out as indicative of the night came on the opening possession of the second half. The Falcons drew up a play for forward Lavelle Scottie and created a look at the basket from about 4 feet. The shot instead traveled about 2 feet.

There was nothing poetic about this boxing match, but instead looked like a 40-minute 12th round.

“It’s a lot to ask from them right now and we’ve still got to go two more this week,” Pilipovich said. “But the schedule’s not going to stop, it’s not going to change.”

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