It could have been much worse for Air Force. Again.
For the second straight game, the Falcons had to overcome a huge early deficit to eventually knock off an in-state opponent.
On Monday it was Western State traveling to Clune Arena and giving the Falcons all they could handle in a 79-67 exhale of a victory.
The Falcons trailed the Division II Mountaineers 27-4 before mounting the comeback. This came two days after a trip to Denver in which the Air Force trailed 27-5 before clawing back for a victory in the final seconds.
“Man, I don’t know,” said Air Force forward Lavelle Scottie when asked for a reason for the slow starts. “As long as we nip it in the bud right now, we can – we will – have a better season. We’re going to figure it out. Our coaches, they know what they’re doing. They’re going to find that right combination to bring energy out in the beginning.”
Scottie provided the energy – or at least the buckets – late, scoring 19 of his career-high 27 after halftime. Pervis Louder contributed career highs of 15 points, seven rebounds and six assists and the pair’s combined 42 points came on just 19 field goal attempts.
With those two leading the way, Air Force shot 63 percent in the second half and outscored the visitors 46-21 after halftime.
Coach Dave Pilipovich knows he’s asking a lot of his team with the schedule it is currently facing. Starting with a game at Indiana State on Nov. 29, the Falcons are in a stretch of five games in 10 days with contests in three time zones. This is also the final week of class with projects and papers due and finals looming next week. Scottie, for example, said he has six finals he’s preparing for.
Those distractions, coupled with Western State’s rapid ball movement and hot early shooting (it made 4 of its first 6 3-point attempts and shot 59 percent in the first half), accounted for some of what took place on Monday.
“I think we underestimated them a little bit,” Louder said. “They were a really good team. They shoot the ball well, they move on offense and they play hard.”
Air Force had a season-high 11 points from Sid Tomes and Ryan Manning scored 10. But the senior class was largely missing from the scoring column, as Frank Toohey, Trevor Lyons, C.J. Siples and Jacob Van combined for four points on 2-of-9 shooting in 55 minutes.
“We’ve just got to get some of the older guys back into the flow,” Pilipovich said.
“We showed a lot of character, a lot of togetherness, a lot of toughness,” he said. “We’ve just got to eliminate the slow start and get ourselves in better position in the first half.”
Yes, there some forced smiles after this one. Nobody wants to play down in classification and be faced with that kind of deficit. But, as Pilipovich pointed out, slow starts or not, the team has won two straight and now sits at 5-3.
“We’ll take the ugly win over a loss any day,” Scottie said.