Falcons capture conference victory away from confines of Clune Arena

January 4, 2014 Updated: January 5, 2014 at 8:28 pm
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photo - UNLV guard Bryce Dejean Jones, left, and forward Chris Wood defend Air Force guard Tre' Coggins during their Mountain West Conference NCAA college basketball game on Saturday, Jan. 4, 2014, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Las Vegas Sun, Sam Morris) LAS VEGAS REVIEWJOURNAL OUT
UNLV guard Bryce Dejean Jones, left, and forward Chris Wood defend Air Force guard Tre' Coggins during their Mountain West Conference NCAA college basketball game on Saturday, Jan. 4, 2014, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Las Vegas Sun, Sam Morris) LAS VEGAS REVIEWJOURNAL OUT 

LAS VEGAS - Elvis. Wayne Newton. Air Force basketball?

It seems the Falcons picked the right city to finally take their show on the road.

Air Force built an early 10-point lead, then withstood a slew of their own mistakes and runs from UNLV to prevail 75-68 on Saturday and finally post an eye-opening victory away from home.

Tre' Coggins scored 20 points, including a driving layup to put Air Force up for good with 36 seconds. Bryce DeJean-Jones, who scored a career-high 28 points for UNLV, then missed two free throws and Kamryn Williams scored the final six points for the Falcons, four at the line and two more as he put back his own follow.

"We did a great job controlling our nerves, on and off the court," Williams said. "Their crowd was intense."

Each of the court-storming, signature victories over the most recent years for the Falcons - wins over San Diego State and New Mexico in particular - came in the clostorphoic conditions of Clune Arena. Away, however, it has mostly been a horror show.

That changed on Saturday at the Thomas & Mack Center, as the Falcons shot 56 percent in the first half and 51.9 percent overall. They outrebounded the Rebels 32-31.

Air Force ran to a 41-33 lead at halftime.

"I'm so proud of them," coach Dave Pilipovich said. "For us to come to Vegas and beat a team that's 10-4 and won seven in row, wow. That's pretty darn good right now."

It's not that Air Force played a perfect game. It twice turned the ball over on inbounds plays under its own basket and survived a massive turnaround when a breakaway dunk opportunity for Max Yon turned into a momentum shifter. Yon missed the dunk and was called for a technical for hanging on the rim. UNLV made the two free throws and made a 3-pointer on its next possession. So what would have been a nine-point lead had Yon made it instead saw UNLV climb to within two points.

That lead ballooned right back out, however, when Coggins quickly hit a pair of 3-pointers.

"We overcame a lot of adversity tonight," Williams said.

Yon scored 13 points and Williams and Marek Olesinski each had 11 points.

UNLV's last field goal came at 3:19 and the Rebels, who made just 6-of-21 3-point attempts, never led by more than one point after the first 20 seconds.

"I want to give Air Force a lot of credit, but I'm very, very disappointed with this loss," said UNLV coach Dave Rice, whose team had won each game by at least 13 points during a seven-game streak.

Air Force (8-5, 2-0 Mountain West) lost to Division II Regis two months ago in an exhibition, now it has finished its first week in the conference with a perfect record.

"People tell us we're not that good," Pilipovich said. "But they can't measure this (pointing to his head) and this (pointing to his heart)."

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