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Air Force grinds out a road victory at Wyoming

February 25, 2014 Updated: February 25, 2014 at 10:38 pm
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photo - Air Force guard Tre' Coggins shown here shooting a free throw against Jackson State don Nov. 14, led all scorers with 20 points in the Falcons' victory over Wyoming on Tuesday. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)
Air Force guard Tre' Coggins shown here shooting a free throw against Jackson State don Nov. 14, led all scorers with 20 points in the Falcons' victory over Wyoming on Tuesday. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock) 

LARAMIE, Wyo. - There were plenty of wet blankets that could have been thrown over this Air Force road victory.

The Falcons again struggled to make shots - shooting just 37.8 percent. They turned it over 15 times. And they squeaked by a Wyoming team down two key players.

None of that could dampen the enthusiasm of a fired-up Air Force coach Dave Pilipovich moments after a 55-53 road win over the Cowboys on a snowy night.

"I may run alongside the bus home, just to cool off," said Pilipovich, who was bounding with energy and talking a mile a minute after the team's third road win of the conference season - the program's most since 2008.

Fact is, this is an Air Force team that just needed to taste victory. Aside from lowly San Jose State, the Falcons (11-15, 5-10 Mountain West) hadn't beaten anyone since Jan. 4. So sure, Wyoming (17-11, 8-7) did some major favors by making just 8-of-17 free throws - including a miss on the front end of a one-and-one in the final minute - and by missing a chance for a go-ahead 3 from Nate Sobey that came up just short in the final seconds, but not a bit of that mattered in the winning locker room.

"Today it was all positivity from the coaches, and that helped us a lot," said point guard Tre' Coggins, who scored a game-high 20 points. "We haven't always had that from them in the past and that change from them has helped us be more relaxed in clutch situations on the court. It made a big difference."

Another difference-maker was Darrius Parker. The freshman has been little more than a spectator for most of the conference season, but he came off the bench to score six second-half points to go with four rebounds and a block.

"He never pouted, he never did anything but worked his tail off and his number was called today and he got the game ball," Pilipovich said. "He's going to be a good player for us in years to come."

Parker hit 3-of-5 shots and played 15 minutes, his most action since Nov. 30.

"I just knew that whenever I got into a game that I needed to be ready," Parker said. "The second half we figured out what we needed to do. We came out with energy, rebounded, played defense and we just got a win."

Max Yon scored 14 points for the Falcons, who have gone nine straight games without scoring 60 points, and his four three throws in the final 2:35 were critical.

Air Force outrebounded Wyoming 37-29 and outscored the hosts 16-9 from the free-throw line.

Wyoming was playing without Larry Nance Jr. and Charles Hankerson Jr., who combined for 26 points in the Cowboys' 66-59 victory at Air Force on Jan. 22. On Tuesday, they were led by 18 points from Sobey and 14 from Jerron Granberry. Josh Adams had 11, including a 3-pointer with 13 seconds remaining that cut into a four-point Air Force lead and provided the final drama in a game that saw three ties and 12 lead changes.

"It was two teams finding themselves and punching each other," Pilipovich said. "We were fortunate enough to have one more punch."

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