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Air Force notebook: Home court advantage for Falcons basketball among nation's best

January 8, 2018 Updated: January 8, 2018 at 9:49 pm
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photo - Players and fans celebrate the Falcons 70-67 upset over nationally ranked San Diego State Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013, at Clune Arena on the Air Force Academy. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)
Players and fans celebrate the Falcons 70-67 upset over nationally ranked San Diego State Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013, at Clune Arena on the Air Force Academy. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock) 

Air Force’s home field advantage ranks third in college basketball, according to numbers from stat guru Ken Pomeroy.

Yes, third. Nationally. Behind only Colorado and Iowa State.

“I want to drink what he’s drinking,” coach Dave Pilipovich said when told the statistic.

Part of that figure obviously comes from Air Force’s ineptitude away from Clune Arena. The Falcons have won just one road game in the past 25 months. Their five losses away from home this year have all been by double digits, including a 19-point defeat by a UC Riverside program that fired its coach a few weeks later.

But Air Force has been much better at home, where it is 5-3 this season and challenged Nevada (No. 16 in RPI) deep into the second half on Saturday.

This has been the norm for a while, and nothing illustrates it better than the Falcons’ track record against Wednesday’s opponent.

Air Force is 4-1 at home against UNLV over the past five years but is just 2-24 all-time against the Runnin’ Rebels in Las Vegas.

UNLV (12-4, 1-2 Mountain West) visits Air Force (6-9, 0-3) at 8 p.m. Wednesday.

“All coaches want their teams to play better at home,” Pilipovich said. “That’s the place you practice every day and that’s the place you live in. So, hopefully we can continue that trend.”

 

Freshman on record pace for Air Force women

Kaelin Immel’s 14.5 points per game not only leads Air Force, but it’s the best among freshman women in the Mountain West and on pace to set a freshman record for the Falcons.

Her 20.7 points per game rank fourth among all players in conference.

“We knew we had a special talent in Kaelin Immel,” coach Chris Gobrecht said. “We were very, very excited to have her choose Air Force and felt like she’s an impact player, program changer and someone who can be one of the foundational blocks in the direction you want to go with your program.

“She’s a total keeper.”

The contributions of Immel and fellow freshman Emily Conroe (10.3 ppg) aren’t a bonus, but a necessity for the Falcons (0-14, 0-3 MW) in a season that has left them without key sophomores Kassady Huffman (academy violation) and Sarah Pierce (ACL for the second straight season).

“Nobody on this team is down or feels like, ‘Woe is me,’ or anything like that,” Gobrecht said. “That’s not the way this team operates. They go out there and they compete like crazy. We’re appreciative of the fans understanding that and being supportive of their efforts.”

 

Right on schedule

Air Force’s hockey coach Frank Serratore felt a weekend series against Mercyhurst represented the best his team has played this season.

The Falcons fell 1-0 on Friday and won 5-1 on Saturday.

“Was that us, or were just the beneficiaries of playing a rusty team? We’re going to find out in the coming weeks,” Serratore said. “It sure was encouraging. I liked our team last week, I liked our play. That’s the blueprint.”

Air Force (9-10-3) has made a habit of finding its stride at this point in the season. In 10 of the past 11 years it has posted a winning record after Jan. 1 and in the past two seasons it went 23-6-5 after the calendar flipped.

 

Rant reflections

Serratore looked back on a (now viral) rant after a Dec. 30 loss at Denver by lamenting that he was “a little hard on those officials.”

However, he’d like to see more accountability on all sides.

“Why are these officials so protected? Like, why? A 19-year-old kid missed a free throw. The game’s over. He’s at the podium answering why,” Serratore said. “Coach has a tactical blunder during a game. He’s at the podium and he’s answering why. An official makes a bad call, well, they’re ushering those guys out of the building like they’re witnesses to a mob murder. Why? Why is there not accountability?”

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