Dave Pilipovich might pack his bag a bit differently and opt for a different seat on the plane, but he’ll keep any changes to his preparation strictly on that kind of superstitious level.
Pilipovich said everything else for Air Force – including its starting lineup – will remain the same as it again tries to tackle its road woes with a game Saturday at Fresno State.
“We just have to have high energy,” Pilipovich said. “We can’t come out like at Boise and put ourselves in an 11-0 hole.”
To ensure fresh legs to boost that energy, Air Force (16-10, 7-6 Mountain West) took Wednesday off following Tuesday’s home win over Wyoming and practiced for only a short time on Thursday.
Other than that, the Falcons will simply hope something clicks better this time on the road – where it has lost seven of its past eight games.
Against teams Air Force has played at home and the road this year, the Falcons have been on average 18 points better at home.
The way Fresno State (9-18, 3-11) looked on Wednesday, losing just 74-67 at Colorado State, the home court advantage may not even be necessary.
“They’re big and they have a lot of length inside, even though they rely on their perimeter scorers,” said Pilipovich, whose team has defeated only Wyoming on the road during the conference season.
Freshmen big men Tanner Giddings (6-foot-10) and Robert Upshaw (7-0) combined for just three points and three rebounds over 27 minutes in Fresno State’s 62-50 loss at Air Force on Jan. 30. Since then the Bulldogs have also added 6-9, 240-pound Kansas transfer Braeden Anderson, who scored 12 points with six rebounds at San Diego State in his second game after gaining eligibility on Feb. 6 and has been in the starting lineup ever since.
To combat Fresno inside, Pilipovich said he may play sophomores DeLovell Earls and Kamryn Williams at the same time. Williams and Earls combined for 37 points against Wyoming on Tuesday.
Pilipovich also said center Taylor Broekhuis, slowed by ankle and toe injuries, will continue to start.
“Taylor’s not the same with this toe,” Pilipovich said. “But if he can get up on two feet, he’s going to start.”
The one thing Pilipovich said he would alter from the last road game was his motivational tactics. Against Boise State, he emphasized how important the game was to the Air Force’s NCAA Tournament hopes. He felt that might have backfired.
This game might be equally important to the Falcons’ chances of getting into the NIT. They are currently ranked No. 64 in the RPI – the NIT field generally consists of teams ranked between No. 40-72. If Air Force can get past Fresno – ranked No. 158 – their remaining games figure to be against higher-ranked teams like San Diego State and New Mexico and even losses in those games wouldn’t greatly impact their standing.
This is also a chance for Air Force to guarantee at least a .500 record in the league.
There’s a lot riding on it, but Pilipovich will keep that to himself.
“I probably won’t mention that as much,” he said. “It didn’t go over well last time.”
For everything else, the plan on this road trip will stay the same.