Updated: January 4, 2014 at 5:17 am
With an entirely new starting lineup, few things have felt familiar this season to the Air Force men's basketball team.
Wednesday's victory over Utah State finally brought a sense of deja vu.
Last year the Falcons opened Mountain West play with what at the time was a surprising home victory over conference newcomer Nevada and propelled that into a close loss at UNLV and, ultimately, a 6-2 start in the league.
"We got that win and it got us started," Falcons coach Dave Pilipovich said. "This was kind of a similar thing."
Air Force hopes a 73-72 win over a Utah State team picked to finish fifth in its first season in the conference (the Falcons were picked 10th) and that was ranked nearly 300 places higher in the RPI can serve as a similar springboard. They again travel to Las Vegas for the second league game of the season.
The obvious key for the Falcons, aside from hitting 51 percent of their shots and 79 percent of their free throws, was the energy. The opening tip was secured when Kamryn Williams launched up to secure a ball that looked like it was headed to the Aggies, and Air Force maintained that throughout in outrebounding a Utah State squad that had led the conference in that category.
UNLV is a team the Falcons have been able to outhustle in the past, but the energy that is generally provided by the Thomas & Mack Center may neutralize that advantage.
The Rebels knocked off Fresno State 75-62 on the road Wednesday despite making just 1 of 16 from 3-point range. With the shots not falling, the Rebels turned it into a track meet, outscoring the Bulldogs 21-10 on the fast break.
Saturday's game tips off at 8:05 p.m.