November 17, 2013 Updated: November 20, 2013 at 12:46 am
Air Force spent a half doing next to nothing in the paint and finding no production from its bench.
Darrius Parker single-handedly solved both of those issues.
The 6-foot-7 freshman scored all 12 of his points in the second half, added seven rebounds and helped the Falcons erase a 12-point deficit in a 67-64 victory over Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Sunday at Clune Arena.
Marek Olesinki led all scorers with 20 points, including three first-half 3s that helped keep the Falcons afloat despite 10 early turnovers. With the team in position to make a move, it was Parker who helped make it happen.
"I believed for the moment that we were taking too many outside shots," Parker said. "With the 2-3 zone, they want you to take 3s," Parker said. "So I knew somebody had to have an inside presence and I figured that had to be me."
Parker has scored 12 points in each of Air Force's two victories this season and just four points combined in two losses. He has instantly emerged as an important figure on the team. His production was vital Sunday. The Falcons' bench was outscored 20-0 in the first half and points in the paint favored the Golden Lions 20-4.
Parker hit 3-of-4 shots and 6-of-8 from the free-throw line.
"We got some same looks earlier with other personnel, but they didn't finish," coach Dave Pilipovich said. "We inserted Darius in there and he was a little more springy and he was able to finish. Plus, he got to the free-throw line and he was good there."
This marked the third time this season that the Falcons (2-2) trailed by at least nine points before rallying for a lead. In the other they trailed by 21 and brought it back to within eight in a loss.
"We get yelled at and criticized at halftime and I guess that's what motivates us and gets us going," said senior Max Yon, who scored 12 of his 14 points in the second half - giving him 36 second-half points in the past two games. "I don't know. When we play from behind we kind of let loose, we kind of relax a little bit because we're not afraid to make a mistake - we have to go for the home-run play."
While Yon's dunk in transition with 1:15 remaining stood out as the home run - giving the Falcons a three-point lead - the real work came in small-ball fashion at the free-throw line.
Yon hit 8-of-10 free throws and Air Force doubled up the visitors from the line (20 of 26 compared to 10 of 13).
"I couldn't hit a 3 or any other shot to save my life," said Yon, who scored six points in a row for Air Force as it went from down 60-58 to up 66-62. "Coach said just keep driving it, with the new foul system you're going to get it called - probably some of those that weren't called last year."
Arkansas-Pine Bluff (2-2) was led by Marcel Moseley's 16 points that included five 3-pointers. Davon Haynes added 13 and Jaylon Floyd had 10.
Air Force's Justin Hammonds - drawing a start in his second game since returning to the squad he left this summer to focus on academics - had 11 points, six rebounds and two blocks.