Air Force hopes mental troubles ended with losing streak

February 13, 2014 Updated: February 14, 2014 at 6:47 am
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photo - Air Force's Max Yon hopes Air Force can carry the momentum from its win over San Jose State into Saturday's game against San Diego State. (Gazette/Jerilee Bennett)
Air Force's Max Yon hopes Air Force can carry the momentum from its win over San Jose State into Saturday's game against San Diego State. (Gazette/Jerilee Bennett) 

Coaching and psychology are often divided by a fine line, and Dave Pilipovich felt he had ventured well past the line Wednesday in the closing minutes for Air Force.

"I was Dr. Phil," the Falcons coach said.

He was doing all he could to instill confidence, to lighten the mood, to do anything but call attention to a lead that was again disappearing.

That's what happened to the Falcons at Colorado State on Jan. 18, at home against Wyoming on Jan. 22, at Nevada on Feb. 1 and again at home against CSU on Feb. 8. When a nine-point advantage in San Jose State's arena with 6:30 remaining turned into a one-point deficit four minutes later, Pilipovich was out of ideas.

"You know those old Southwest commercials about, 'Want to get away,'" Pilipovich said. "I felt like that."

Ultimately, the defense bailed out the Falcons in a 51-48 victory that snapped a six-game losing streak. The points allowed were a season-low for the Falcons, who forced 18 turnovers, blocked six shots and held San Jose State to 30.2 percent from the field.

A specific goal had been to limit the Spartans to less than six 3-pointers. They had five. One more and the game would have been tied.

"We were all on edge," Pilipovich said. "We were getting tight. They've been trying so hard, but they had not seen victory in how long, a month?"

The Falcons hope psychology works for them now that the six-game skid is over. Pilipovich is keeping the team on the road for the next two days before a game Saturday at San Diego State.

The players certainly felt that would be the case. Max Yon talked about carrying the momentum into the next game. DeLovell Earls acknowledged a sense of relief.

"It's nice," Earls said. "We're going on another streak now."

The plan is to focus on something other than the sport that has brought so many recent frustrations.

"We need to go to the zoo, get some peanuts, some sodas and just walk around and feed the animals," Pilipovich said. "We don't need a ball, practice, nothing - we just need to be with the animals."

In prescribing a mental break, Pilipovich may be taking time away from coaching but not the constant psychology.

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