During the offseason, Air Force guard Evan Washington took a look at his free-throw shooting statistics.
He didn’t like what he saw.
“They were pretty terrible,” said the 6-foot-4 junior, who went a combined 91-of-157 (58.0 percent) from the line in his first two seasons at the academy.
“And this year I knew I was going to have to handle the ball a lot. And towards the end of the game, when you handle the ball, you’re going to get fouled in clutch situations.”
So Washington worked hard to improve his free-throw shooting over the summer. And both he and the Falcons have benefitted.
On Saturday, in Air Force’s 70-63 victory over Wyoming that snapped a 22-game losing streak in Mountain West Conference regular season play, Washington made 7-of-8 free throws, including six straight on three consecutive possessions in the final 90 seconds to seal the win.
For the season, Washington is 74-of-106 from the line (69.8 percent), including 15-of-21 (71.4 percent) in MWC play.
“I really wanted to be that guy to step up and make free throws, and (the offseason work is) finally paying off,” he said.
It’s not just Washington’s free-throw shooting that has improved. The former prep school star, who has started 69 of 81 games in his academy career, has blossomed in recent weeks. In the Falcons’ last four games, Washington averaged 14.5 points on 20-of-30 shooting from the floor (including 4-of-6 from 3-point range) and 14-of-17 shooting from the line. He also averaged four rebounds and had an assist-to-turnover ration of three-to-two.
Air Force didn’t have much time to celebrate Saturday’s victory over Wyoming. The Falcons leave Monday for Southern California and on Tuesday night will face always athletic and talented San Diego State at Viejas Arena (formerly known as Cox Arena.), where they’ve lost four straight.
Asked after beating Wyoming what his emotions were when the game went final, Air Force coach Jeff Reynolds said, “The thing that came to my mind as the horn went off was, ‘Let’s get ready for the next game.’”
Only two of Air Force’s four seniors played in Saturday’s game – forward Grant Parker and center Mike McLain. Both started, but while Parker played 31 minutes, McLain played just 10. Guard Avery Merriex, who has started 12 games this season, did not play.
Clune, sweet Clune
After Tuesday’s game at San Diego State, Air Force will play four of its next six games at home.