Air Force scores first 25 points as it takes out Wyoming in Mountain West Tournament

March 8, 2017 Updated: March 8, 2017 at 8:21 pm
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photo - Air Force's Hayden Graham, left, Wyoming's Alexander Aka Gorski, of Sweden, (3) and Alan Herndon reach for a rebound during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in the Mountain West Conference tournament Wednesday, March 8, 2017, in Las Vegas. Air Force defeated Wyoming 83-68. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)
Air Force's Hayden Graham, left, Wyoming's Alexander Aka Gorski, of Sweden, (3) and Alan Herndon reach for a rebound during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in the Mountain West Conference tournament Wednesday, March 8, 2017, in Las Vegas. Air Force defeated Wyoming 83-68. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken) 

LAS VEGAS - Lavelle Scottie took one step inside the 3-point line and banked in a shot for Air Force.

He did not call glass. He did, however, set the tone.

The freshman's bucket 42 seconds into Wednesday's game was the first in a run that spotted the Falcons a 25-point lead before shell-shocked Wyoming finally scored.

The seventh-seeded Cowboys never recovered from the stunning start, and No. 10 Air Force won its first game away from home this season with an 83-68 victory at the Mountain West Tournament.

In this city, and in this month on the basketball calendar, luck is vital. On this day at the Mountain West Tournament the Falcons bathed in good fortune.

"We had a couple of shots like that," said Jacob Van, who scored 18 points and made 10-of-10 free throw attempts to pace Air Force. "At the same time, we're not going to rely on those shots. We're relying on our defense. We're relying on getting to the basket. It always helps when shots like that are going in, but we felt the confidence because of how we played on the defensive end."

MWC Air Force Wyoming Basketball
Air Force's Jacob Van shoots during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Wyoming in the Mountain West Conference tournament Wednesday, March 8, 2017, in Las Vegas. Air Force defeated Wyoming 83-68. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken) 

Yes, Air Force (12-20) made many of its own breaks. It forced 20 turnovers, made 29 of 34 free throws and played a mix of man-to-man and zone defenses that held Wyoming to 40.7 percent shooting and 68 points after giving up 83 and 84 points in losses earlier this season.

The craziest thing wasn't so much the 25-0 start - though that was as lopsided a start as anyone involved in the game could ever remember seeing - as the context in which it occurred. Air Force had been 0-13 away from Clune Arena. It closed the season 1-9. And in this tournament the team had gone 3-17.

"I think we kind of shocked some people a little bit, the way we came out and started playing," said senior Hayden Graham, who scored 15 points.

"I don't want to be done."

Wyoming (18-14) just wanted to put an end to the onslaught at the start, but it took 8 minutes, 35 seconds before it finally scored.

"They came out with a lot of fire," said Justin James, who led the Cowboys with 20 points. "They came out with more passion than we did. And they just came out and dominated."

Air Force's lead grew to 28 points at several points in the first half, but shrunk to 16 points in the second half as tension mounted. But Scottie's third 3-pointer - he had just seven this season before Wednesday - stretched the lead back above 20 and Air Force was able to relax and close it out.

Colorado Springs native Alan Herndon scored nine points with six rebounds, three assists, two block sand two steals before fouling out for Wyoming.

Good fortune played a role, but Air Force felt it was due for some luck. And it hopes to let it ride into Thursday's matchup with No. 2 Colorado State as the program's first trip to the conference semifinals hangs in the balance.

"On our journey to this point our GPS got screwed up a little bit," coach Dave Pilipovich said. "We didn't go the right way. But we had our third season, and we're 1-0 right now. We feel pretty good about ourselves."

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