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Air Force finds formula - like against Canisius - that will win a lot of men's basketball games

November 14, 2017 Updated: November 15, 2017 at 9:28 am
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photo - Air Force guard Jacob Van shoots a free throw during the second half against Utah State Saturday, Dec. 31, 2016, at Clune Arena on the Air Force Academy. The Falcons won 78-73.  (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)
Air Force guard Jacob Van shoots a free throw during the second half against Utah State Saturday, Dec. 31, 2016, at Clune Arena on the Air Force Academy. The Falcons won 78-73. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock) 

This formula will win a lot of games for Air Force.

Of course, it would for anyone.

The Falcons handled Canisius 93-79 on Tuesday night at Clune Arena, aided heavily by a 38-for-41 showing from the free-throw line.

They weren’t bad from the field, either, shooting 46 percent overall and 42.9 (9 of 21) from 3.

But the free throws – a staggering 92.7 percent clip that was the best for the program in seven years – really stood out.

“Every day in practice we usually shoot 20 free throws and if we miss more than five, we do pushups,” said Jacob Van, who went 2 of 4 from the field but scored 13 points thanks to a 9-for-9 performance at the line. “So people on the team are understanding that we take free throws seriously. That helped us win the game. Last year maybe we don’t win this game.”

The Falcons are 45 of 50 (90 percent) through two games. And while that is obviously a tiny sample size, it’s a percentage far better than the 72 percent it shot last year.

Seemingly everything has been different than last year so far.

In Canisius (which finished 164 in RPI last year) and Texas State (184), the Falcons (222) have cruised past a pair of teams that were not only better than them a year ago but were rated higher than a handful of Mountain West teams.

The Falcons (2-0) finished tied for last in the league and were picked at the bottom this year.

“We definitely thought we were underrated this year,” said Ryan Manning, who scored 15 points and went 6 of 6 from the line. “We’ve got a good team. I don’t think we’ve hit our full potential. We’ve got a lot to improve on and a long way to go.”

Five players reached double figures for the Falcons, led by Lavelle Scottie’s 18, who made all eight of his free throws.

Air Force led by as many as 11 in the first half before Canisius (0-2) closed the gap to five at the break. The Falcons' advantage then swelled to 15 in the second half before things grew interesting when a 7-0 Golden Griffins run brought them to within 82-76 with two minutes remaining.

But Trevor Lyons hit a tough layup and drew a foul. He made the free throw, as the Falcons went 9 of 9 from the line in that final stretch as part of a perfect 19 of 19 in the second half. The team also made its first 11 attempts, including the front end of three one-and-ones.

The 38 free throws fell just short of the team-record 42 made against Navy on Dec. 16, 1993.

Note: Air Force was without guard Pervis Louder, who rolled an ankle in Monday’s practice after scoring 13 points in the season opener Sunday.

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