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Air Force's basketball season could finally find some rhythm starting Saturday at San Diego State

February 2, 2018 Updated: February 2, 2018 at 5:01 pm
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Air Force guard CJ Siples controls the ball against Boise State. The Air Force Falcons played the Boise State Broncos at the Air Force Academy on Saturday, January 27, 2018. (Photo by Jerilee Bennett, The Gazette)

This Air Force basketball season has had all the flow of a scratched CD.

The team crammed eight games into 18 days across three time zones from Nov. 20 to Dec. 8, then went idle for nine days for finals. After conference play started the Falcons played two games and then waited through a bye. Then came the best four-game stretch of the season, followed by an unexpected weekend off for the government shutdown. Then there were two more games and the second bye.

Consider that on Saturday, Colorado State will play its 12th Mountain West game of the season before the Falcons tip off in their ninth.

For a team that has tweaked its lineup on several occasions, this has been no way to find continuity.

The good news for the Falcons (8-12, 2-6 Mountain West) is that starting Saturday night at San Diego State the schedule should allow for some rhythm the rest of the way – barring more games being wiped out by weather or a government shutdown.

Also, with some extra games remaining and with six of the final nine at home, Air Force has some control as to where it goes from here as it sits three games out of fourth place in the conference.

“We are looking forward to getting back on the court and winning some big games in the next couple of weeks,” said senior Jacob Van, who has scored 27 points in two games at San Diego State.

Coach Dave Pilipovich has made no secret of his frustrations with the way the schedule has played out of late. He seemed only half joking when he said after a close loss to Boise State on Jan. 27 that he wanted to go out and play again. He said his staff would try to turn this past week off into a positive, with a lighter workload on certain days and extra shooting time for a team hitting just 31 percent from 3-point range in conference action.

The Falcons haven’t won at San Diego State (12-8, 4-5) since 2004, but in the first year since coach Steve Fisher’s retirement this isn’t the same brand of Aztecs squad. San Diego State still features length as intimidating as anyone in the conference – with 6-foot-10 Jalen McDaniels, 6-10 Malik Pope and 6-9 Max Montana averaging a combined 36.3 points and 18 rebounds in Mountain West action – but it has dropped four of its past five. A program built on its defense has allowed more than 80 points per game in that span.

If Air Force wins, it could be a trajectory-changing game. If it loses, well, what’s new in a series the Aztecs have dominated 54-23.

Either way, the Falcons will be back in action at home against Colorado State on Tuesday and not spending a week awaiting their next turn.

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