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Back from government shutdown, Air Force basketball haunted by familiar shooting woes in loss at Utah State

January 24, 2018 Updated: January 24, 2018 at 10:33 pm
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photo - Air Force Falcons forward Ryan Swan (34) puts his head in his hands following a close loss during an NCAA college basketball game between the Air Force Falcons and UNLV Rebels in Clune Arena at the U.S. Air Force Academy on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018. UNLV won the game 81-76. (Dougal Brownlie, The Gazette via AP)
Air Force Falcons forward Ryan Swan (34) puts his head in his hands following a close loss during an NCAA college basketball game between the Air Force Falcons and UNLV Rebels in Clune Arena at the U.S. Air Force Academy on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018. UNLV won the game 81-76. (Dougal Brownlie, The Gazette via AP) 

This was a blast from the past in the worst way for Air Force.

The Falcons, back in action after the government shutdown postponed a game, reverted to their lackluster December form in a 71-49 blowout loss at Utah State.

“We just didn’t knock down some shots,” coach Dave Pilipovich told 740 AM KVOR’s Jim Arthur in his postgame radio interview from Logan, Utah.

This was the issue in December, when Air Force (8-11, 2-5 Mountain West) suffered four straight double-digit losses to Division I opponents. And was it ever a problem on Wednesday in a building where the program is now 0-10 all-time.

The Falcons missed their first 12 3-point attempts and finished just 3-of-22 from long range. They shot 18-of-55 overall (32.7 percent) in the game.

The three 3-pointers matched a season low.

Air Force largely overcame the shooting woes in the first half thanks to five steals on defense, just four turnovers on offense and work on the boards that allowed Utah State (11-11, 4-5) just one offensive rebound. The game was tied 20-20 and the Aggies led 29-25 at the break.

But once Utah State heated up early in the second half, hitting three quick 3s, the Falcons couldn’t pour in the shots to douse the flames.

“It seemed like every time we made a mistake they knew what to do to take advantage of it,” said Ryan Swan, who led Air Force with 10 points as the sophomore has now reached double figures in each of his seven starts.

Guards Sam Merrill (21 points) and Koby McEwen (20) paced the Aggies, who went 7 of 17 from 3-point range in the second half in snapping a four-game losing streak.

Air Force’s three leading scorers were sophomores. Swan knocked down 5-of-9 shots on the way to 10 points, Lavelle Scottie had nine points and Caleb Morris had seven, hitting a pair of second-half 3s. Freshman Keaton Van Soelen matched Swan for a team-high five rebounds.

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