Falcons finally hit the road for its last nonconference contest

By Brent Briggeman Updated: December 20, 2013 at 9:07 pm • Published: December 20, 2013 | 8:55 pm 0

The Air Force basketball team was not immune to the travel woes that will undoubtedly plague many in this - and every - holiday season.

The Falcons sat for about two hours Thursday, awaiting word on a military plane that was to take them to UC Davis, which is located just west of Sacramento. Eventually the flight was canceled, along with plans to take the team to the Spurs vs. Warriors game in Oakland on Thursday.

The team finally made it to its hotel just before 6 p.m. Friday, roughly 26 hours behind schedule.

Aside from missing out on a team night at a hotel and an NBA game, things couldn't be much better for this team.

Junior captain DeLovell Earls will likely make his season debut Saturday and fellow junior captain Kamryn Williams figures to make his first start since Nov. 9. Both have been sidelined with leg injuries.

To top it off, coach Dave Pilipovich raved about the way the team has looked in practice following a three-day break for finals.

"I thought today we had some moments that were some of our better moments in practice that we've had all year," Pilipovich said Friday. "We were spirited defensively and offensively. We're getting better. How much better? I don't know. But we're getting better."

Earls, the team's lone returning starter from the squad that went 8-8 in the Mountain West last season, hasn't played this season as he has recovered from a broken tibia. He went through full practices on Wednesday and Thursday and eased off Friday, riding an exercise bike and shooting, in an effort to be ready to go Saturday.

"For three- or four-minute periods he's pretty good," Pilipovich said. "It's just conditioning and confidence, getting back in the flow of things. When he's out there he showed us signs of giving us what he gave us last year, to be honest. It's just going to be some time to get him in game shape. You can only ride that bike for so long."

Williams scored eight points in 12 minutes on Saturday against UC Riverside after missing seven games with a pulled hamstring.

The Falcons (6-4) figure to need all the contributions they can get in just their second road game of the season - the first came in a loss against tournament host VMI in the All-Military Classic on Nov. 9. UC Davis (3-9) has taken two Mountain West teams into overtime, falling 87-81 to Nevada in overtime on Dec. 7 and 89-85 to San Jose State in triple overtime on Wednesday.

The Aggies feature a pair of 6-foot-8 international players in Australian Iggy Nujic and Bulgarian Georgi Funtarov, but do most of their damage with a trio of guards.

"They play all kinds of different defenses, too," Pilipovich said. "We're going to see the whole kitchen sink tomorrow."

The Falcons will take a four-day break after Saturday's 3:30 p.m. game and reconvene on Dec. 26 to begin preparations for the Jan. 1 conference opener at home against Utah State.

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