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Stopping Air Force's offense for Boise State not as simple as containing Lyons

By: BRENT BRIGGEMAN
February 19, 2013
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photo - Mike Fitzgerald is at his best when being aggressive, as he was on this play in Air Force's first meeting with Boise State this year. Photo by THE GAZETTE FILE
Mike Fitzgerald is at his best when being aggressive, as he was on this play in Air Force's first meeting with Boise State this year. Photo by THE GAZETTE FILE 

Since Michael Lyons scored 37 points the first time he faced Boise State and dropped 45 in his most recent game, the key to stopping Air Force would seem pretty simple for the Broncos.

Right?

“There’s nothing simple about it, and that’s the beauty of what they do,” Boise State coach Leon Rice said. “With all those seniors, there’s no thought in what they’re doing, they could run that offense in their sleep.”

Despite the gaudy numbers Lyons has put up recently, it’s not like his teammates are giving him the ball and racing to the other side of the court. Air Force continues to run its “Princeton/Air Force” offense, which emphasis ball movement and a whole lot of movement by players who don’t have the ball.

Lyons has been taking more shots than usual, but those have primarily come within the framework of the offense. If Boise State or anyone else tries to put added pressure on Lyons, backdoor cutters or another capable shooter – primarily Mike Fitzgerald – will likely find more open looks.

“That’s kind of the give-and-take we have a little bit,” Fitzgerald said. “But it’s not just Mike and I, but it’s also Todd Fletcher and Taylor Broekhuis. We all have the ability to score at any time.

“We know we’re more successful when we’re playing as a team and a lot of guys are scoring.”

Fitzgerald has scored at least 16 points seven times in the Falcons’ 11 conference games, including a high of 30 points against Nevada and 17 in the first meeting with Boise State. An 82.9 percent free-throw shooter, he’s at his best when he’s giving himself opportunities at the line – a point he said he’s keeping in mind as he prepares for a game that could well see him take on a larger role with Lyons likely to be draped by defenders.

“It reminds me that I need to stay aggressive at all times,” Fitzgerald said. “If I’m not aggressive, I let (opportunities) pass.”

Of course, with the way Lyons is playing, there’s a chance any attempts from Boise State to slow him won’t work. After all, with all he can do on the court – getting to the rim, shooting from outside, working without the ball, scoring in transition – limiting his production is far easier said than done.

“Guys that get 45 are never one-dimensional,” Rice said.

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