Published: November 3, 2013
Even the pregame chest bumps need work for Air Force.
As starting lineups were announced before Sunday's exhibition against Regis at Clune Arena, juniors Marek Olesinski and Scott Adler jumped to greet each other and Olesinki promptly fell to the ground.
"That's where we are right now," coach Dave Pilipovich said.
It should come as no surprise then that the Falcons - featuring a lineup without a player with a career start - fell in a 16-point first-half hole and, despite rallying to take the lead on several occasions, lost 70-65 to the NCAA Division II foe from Denver.
"It was kind of what I expected," said Pilipovich, whose team is without its two captains as Kamryn Williams (hamstring) should be back by the season opener and DeLovell Earls (stress fracture to the tibia) could be out for another month. "We're still trying to get these guys to win practices, so I'm not sure we're ready to win games yet."
Tre' Coggins led Air Force with 20 points and Max Yon scored 16. Olesinski had 11.
The veterans were the ones with the ball late and Olesinski turned it over once, mishandled a pass on another occasion and Coggins couldn't hit a short layup that could have cut Regis' lead to one in the final two minutes.
"I know what it's like now to be in a situation like that at this level," Coggins said. "You've just got to finish. There's no reason not to."
Coggins and Olesinski played significant time last year, but the team belonged to a core of five seniors - including first-team all-Mountain West selection Michael Lyons. Two other contributors have also since left the program.
"They were watching Mike Lyons make that play and I was watching Mike Lyons make that play," Pilipovich said. "I'm glad they had that today and maybe down the road it will help us that they missed them."
The Falcons played six freshmen, including starter Nick Jorgensen, who led the group with six points. Darrius Parker showed a strong physical presence and finished with four rebounds, two points, an assist, a block and a steal.
Even though this game was essentially a dress rehearsal, Parker said there were plenty of nerves for the guys seeing the floor in front of a crowd for the first time.
"At first during the first half you think you just don't want to mess up and you don't want to look bad," Parker said. "Once you start getting the groove of it you realize, 'OK, I'm playing to play and now I just have to go.'"
Regis, a member the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference, went 9-16 last year but on Saturday gave a major scare to Colorado State, leading by as much as 10 in the second half before falling 70-69.
The Rangers started four seniors Sunday, including guard Jarrett Green, who averaged 12.1 points last year.
It was Green who put Air Force in an early hole with five quick 3-pointers. He finished with 30 points.
Air Force opens its season Friday against Army at the All-Military Classic in Lexington, Va.
Sunday's loss will not count toward the record, but it does provide the initial snapshot of the before-and-after look to a team that figures to be much different in the coming months.
"We like 'em," Pilipovich said. "We're going to stay with them. They're going to get better. I know an old guy in a bar used to tell me, 'They don't know what they don't know right now.' That's for me to teach them what to know."