LAS VEGAS • Air Force’s best effort in six Mountain West Conference games wasn’t quite good enough Tuesday night.
The Falcons led early and stayed close throughout, but UNLV pulled away and defeated the Falcons 60-50.
“We competed,” Air Force coach Jeff Reynolds said. “But that’s still not satisfaction.”
Indeed, the Falcons, who lost for the sixth time in a row and seventh time in eight games, fell to 8-11 and 0-6 in MWC play. And their record losing streak in league regular-season games grew to 22.
But for a team that had lost its previous four games by an average of 20 points, the game represented a step in the right direction. It showed, junior Tom Fow said, “that we can compete with any team in the league.
“UNLV’s one of the top teams, and we showed tonight that we can take teams down to the wire.”
Fow and senior Grant Parker, in his second game back from injury, led Air Force with 11 points apiece. Three players scored in double figures for UNLV, which improved to 17-4 and 5-2.
Air Force played well early, controlling the pace of the game and benefitting from UNLV’s poor shooting. With 4:16 left in the first half, the Falcons offense seemed in sync, as freshman Todd Fletcher slid a bounce pass through traffic to a cutting Michael Lyons, who threw down a one-handed dunk. And on the Falcons’ next possession, Fow hit a 3-pointer to give Air Force a 22-13 advantage.
Air Force led 24-15 with 2:24 left, but UNLV closed with six straight points to cut Air Force’s lead to 24-21 at the half.
The lead evaporated quickly after halftime. Following a turnover the first time they had the ball, the Rebels scored on eight of 10 possessions, including five in a row, to take a 42-34 lead. UNLV junior guard Kendall Wallace, who missed all three of his 3-point attempts in the first half, made 4-of-4 in the stretch.
“I think that was the difference in the game,” Reynolds said.