Northern Arizona seemed tired of being the Mountain West Conference’s punching bag.
Air Force seemed just, plain tired – at least in the second half.
The result was a 60-52 victory by the Lumberjacks in front of an announced crowd of 2,507 at Clune Arena on Saturday night.
Northern Arizona had lost four of five heading into the game, including a pair of blowout losses to MWC squads San Diego State (by 41) and New Mexico (by 39). But the Lumberjacks took advantage of Air Force’s depleted frontcourt – the Falcons again were without starting center Sammy Schafer and starting forward Grant Parker – and held a 22-12 scoring advantage in the paint, to improve to 4-6 on the season.
“They did a good job of attacking our big men down low and also hitting shots from the outside,” Air Force junior guard Evan Washington said. “And we just couldn’t score.”
Especially in the second half. The Falcons led 27-23 at halftime but scored on only one of their first 11 possessions after the break. And through 15-plus minutes of the second half, the Falcons had scored just four baskets, and their four-point halftime advantage had become an 11-point deficit.
“Tonight we didn’t play as well as we’ve been playing,” said Air Force coach Jeff Reynolds, whose team lost for the third time in four games to fall to 5-4. “And maybe that’s my fault. Maybe I worked them a little too hard in practice. … I thought we looked sluggish in the second half.”
Air Force shot just 9-of-28 from the floor in the second half and missed all seven of its 3-pointers. It also went 11-for-21 from the foul line for the game.
Junior Tom Fow led the Falcons with 15 points, while Washington and freshman Todd Fletcher chipped in 11 apiece. Air Force clearly missed Parker, its leading scorer, but Reynolds called his absence “part of college basketball.”
“We’re not the only team in the country that has injuries,” Reynolds said. “So we’ve got to find a way to battle through it.”