Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Air Force shows little life in a lopsided home loss to Fresno State

By Brent Briggeman Updated: February 6, 2014 at 8:23 am 0

Dave Pilipovich insists this isn't rock bottom.

It was hard to see otherwise.

In an atmosphere only slightly more appealing than instead standing in the negative-13 degree temperatures outside of Clune Arena, Air Force did virtually nothing well in falling to Fresno State 68-51 to drop its seventh game in its past eight.

The Falcons shot poorly from everywhere - 38.3 percent from the field, 36 percent from 3-point range, 54.5 percent from the free-throw line - they were sloppy in turning the ball over 20 times and they were admittedly just not tuned in.

This came against a Fresno State (10-13, 3-7 Mountain West) squad that has just one victory in the conference that didn't come against the Falcons (9-12, 3-7).

Sounds a lot like rock bottom in this, the final game of a three-game suspension for leading scorer Tre' Coggins.

"Are we rock bottom? No," said Pilipovich, the Falcons coach overseeing the roughest stretch of his two-year stint at the helm. "But we're not getting better right now."

Missing Coggins is no doubt a part of it, as the team has gone into a collective shooting slump without him. He's also the only ball-handling guard on the roster, which is no small thing to take away. But the team seemed far more out of it in this game than one player could fix.

The Bulldogs were handed a 10-point halftime lead as Air Force scored just 19 points in the first 20 minutes. The Falcons fell behind by as many as 13 before a rally closed the gap to just four. That proved short-lived, as Fresno State scored the next 10 points and Air Force showered their guests with turnovers.

It was yet another example of the team not having the gumption to finish.

"As a team we need to come together and do something outside of basketball," said Kamryn Williams, a team captain who is already planning a players-only meeting on Thursday to brainstorm solutions.

"That would help us build chemistry and rely more on each other when it comes to the hard times."

Fresno State had 20 points from Tyler Johnson and 18 from Cezar Guerrero.

Marek Olesinski led Air Force with 17 points and eight rebounds, Justin Hammonds had eight points and seven boards and DeLovell Earls and Hayden Graham each scored eight points off the bench - giving Air Force subs more points (16) than they had scored in the previous five games (15).

"This team is good enough to win," Graham said. "Eveybody has seen it; we've knocked off some of the best teams in the conference. We just need to bring it every single night. We can't just play to the opponent's level."

That level figures to go up on Saturday with Colorado State coming to town. Which begs the question - if this wasn't rock bottom, and the worst may still be to come, what might that game look like?

"We're not improving, but that's our job and my job is to get us better," Pilipovich said. "We have to get us competitive here to finish out, and we're going to do that."

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