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Jacob Van's breakout performance one of few bright spots Air Force basketball will take from New York

December 18, 2017 Updated: December 18, 2017 at 10:48 pm
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photo - Air Force's Jacob Van shoots during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Wyoming in the Mountain West Conference tournament Wednesday, March 8, 2017, in Las Vegas. Air Force defeated Wyoming 83-68. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)
Air Force's Jacob Van shoots during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Wyoming in the Mountain West Conference tournament Wednesday, March 8, 2017, in Las Vegas. Air Force defeated Wyoming 83-68. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken) 

NEW YORK – If Jacob Van can make shots here, perhaps he can once again make them anywhere.

While Air Force’s trip to Madison Square Garden was largely a flop on the court, resulting in a 79-54 loss to Army, Van was the bright spot.

He scored 14 points, hitting 3-of-5 shots and 6-of-7 free throws, in 24 minutes in a performance that had the looks of a jumpstart to a down season. He made both of his 3-point attempts (after entering just 1 of 12 this season) and was able to penetrate into the lane to cause havoc.

In short, this is what Van had done regularly since breaking out late in his sophomore season but hadn’t been able to show so far as a senior.

“It definitely felt good to make some shots,” Van said. “I’ve been off the past few games, but I’ve gotten in the gym over the break when we had a few days off. It felt good to see the ball go in. I’ve just got to keep working and keep getting back to where I was.”

Let’s not lose sight of where exactly he once was. He scored 37 points against UNLV in the Mountain West Tournament as a sophomore. He averaged 10.6 points as a junior. He made 52-of-129 (40.3 percent) 3-pointers over those two seasons while compiling a 120-to-84 assist-to-turnover ratio.

But that’s not who he had been as a senior prior to Sunday. After starting the first four games he had become a seldom-used reserve. He played just three minutes in a loss at Indiana State and a victory at Denver and had scored just two points over the Falcons’ previous five games.

Against Army he played 24 minutes.

“He’s been working at it,” coach Dave Pilipovich said. “He’s felt bad about how his performances were up to this point, and we’ve got to get that from him. He’s an experienced guy who can play at both ends, and he’s been through the wars in the Mountain West and hopefully this will be a start of that.”

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