Air Force suffered a blowout unlike we’ve seen at Clune Arena in some time.
But it wasn’t altogether unproductive.
Yes, Nevada came in and walloped the Falcons 78-59 on Wednesday night. Cameron Oliver scored a beastly 25 points with 15 rebounds and showed how dominant and talented he can be when clearly motivated.
But there was more going on here than that.
Air Force has worn out the close-loss scenario to death and is clearly more interested in making wholesale changes than settling for the same result.
On Saturday, Sid Tomes entered the starting lineup for the first time, but was largely quiet. That wasn’t the case on Wednesday for the freshman, who led Air Force with 18 points on 7-of-12 shooting.
There’s a legitimate building block that the Falcons would not have had if it weren’t willing to sacrifice in the now to build for something in the coming weeks.
I’ll have more later, and this game wasn’t pretty and I’m not trying to sugar coat it; but the course of this season has changed and it’s not that Air Force has thrown in the towel. It’s that it knows you sometimes have to dirty a few towels to get the shine you seek.
Halftime deficit nothing new to Air Force, play of freshman Tomes is
The story for Air Force hoops so far isn’t the early double-digit deficit to Nevada but the emergence of freshman Sid Tomes.
The freshman point guard has 11 points on 4-of-6 shooting for the Falcons. He’s hit 3-of-4 3-pointers.
Air Force trails Nevada 41-28, which is nothing new. The Falcons have fallen behind by double digits in most games during the conference season and have made second-half runs to draw even or take a lead before fading late. That’s the pattern.
But Tomes is a break from the norm. The Falcons have him a start at Boise State on Saturday, a surprise move considering how little he had played to that point.
He didn’t start in this game, but he logged 12 minutes over the first half and looked comfortable and formidable.
We’ll see if Air Force makes a run here. But, frankly, if you’re an Air Force fan that’s not your primary concern here. You want to see improvement and signs that the Falcons can make a run at the Mountain West Tournament.
If that’s your goal, you have to like what you’re seeing from Tomes.
Hayden Grham got off to a hot start with 10 early points for the Falcons, but he played just 10 minutes because he picked up three fouls.
Cameron Oliver has been a dominant presence for Nevada with 16 points and nine rebounds.
The Wolf Pack have outrebounded Air Force 20-9.
More lineup shakeups for Air Force basketball vs. Nevada
More lineup shakeups are on the way for Air Force basketball tonight as Mountain West contender Nevada visits Clune Arena at 7 p.m.
Freshman Lavelle Scottie will draw his first career start for the Falcons, stepping in at the center position. Frank Toohey will move to a forward position.
Joining them will be Hayden Graham, Zach Kocur and Jacob Van.
Van played just 22 minutes – 8 below his season average – on Saturday at Boise State as Pervis Louder moved into the starting lineup.
Scottie certainly earned a start with his performance in that 76-66 road loss, scoring 11 points with seven rebounds, three assists and two blocks.
Expect these kinds of shakeups to continue for the next three weeks as the Falcons seek the most effective combinations in an attempt to peak at the Mountain West Tournament.
Despite Air Force’s struggles, which include seven losses in eight games, they remain close in each game and have played tight games with Boise State and Nevada – two of the three teams within .5 games of the conference lead. It’s been a crazy year in the Mountain West when it comes to parity, and the tournament figures to be a free-for-all. Air Force wants to be in the best position at that point, so these final six games will be a competitive testing ground.
Also of note is that Nick Wells is dressing for the first time in his career. From what Wells has shown in practice, it will be eye-opening for Air Force fans when the 6-foot-7 freshman steps on the floor for the first time.
Nevada (19-6, 8-4) enters tonight’s game having lost two of three.