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Runnin' Falcons? Coaches for Air Force men's and women's basketball seek a fast-paced style

February 12, 2018 Updated: February 12, 2018 at 8:51 pm
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photo - Air Force head coach Dave Pilipovich has a few words with the ref during the first half of a game at theAir Force Academy on Tuesday, February 6, 2018. Air Force defeated CSU 78-73. (Photo by Jerilee Bennett, The Gazette)
Air Force head coach Dave Pilipovich has a few words with the ref during the first half of a game at theAir Force Academy on Tuesday, February 6, 2018. Air Force defeated CSU 78-73. (Photo by Jerilee Bennett, The Gazette) 

Fresh off his team’s 100-point outburst in a victory over New Mexico on Saturday, Dave Pilipovich entered his weekly press conference with an announcement.

“We just got a call from Nike, we’re getting new uniforms,” the Air Force men’s basketball coach joked. “We’re going to be the Runnin’ Falcons.

“We’re changing our nickname to the Runnin’ Falcons. 100 points? How about that. There have been three games sometimes we don’t score 100.”

Pilipovich exaggerated, of course, but there was some truth in his assessment. There have been plenty of times this season and in recent years that the Falcons have struggled to score. In consecutive December losses at UC Riverside and against Army at Madison Square Garden, the Falcons scored just 102 combined points. Exactly one week before the 100-92 victory over the Lobos, Air Force had scored half that in an 81-50 loss at San Diego State.

Even after scoring 178 points in victories over Colorado State and New Mexico, Air Force (10-13, 4-7 Mountain West) ranks 10th in the 11-team conference in scoring.

The uptempo style is something Pilipovich wants to see more from his team, which is 4-2 in conference action when scoring at least 70 points and 0-5 when it doesn’t.

“We’ve got to push the ball,” said Pilipovich, whose team travels to UNLV (18-7, 7-5) and Boise State (20-5, 10-3) for Wednesday and Saturday games this week. “We don’t win games in the 50s. We’ve got to get 70-plus.”

And it’s not just Pilipovich seeking more scoring at Clune Arena.

Women’s coach Chris Gobrecht broached the same topic on Monday.

Gobrecht’s team has incrementally improved in almost all areas over her three years, but the scoring remains the final straggler. She has built with defense first, and as a result her team ranks 29th in the nation in turnovers forced and it has held five of its past seven opponents to 40 percent of worse from the field.

But the women rank No. 330 out of 349 nationally in scoring, something Gobrecht attributes to the lack of depth and expended energy on defense.

“Sometimes we rest on offense because they know better than to try to rest on defense,” Gobrecht said.

But Gobrecht rarely spends much time wallowing on what the Falcons – shorthanded because of injuries and eligibility issues – are so much as what they can grow into as a program. She wants to build a system like she sees at Wyoming, where a team looks the same year after year because of what it runs. She sees the same kind of continuity with Troy Calhoun’s Air Force football team.

“Our football program exemplifies in probably the best way possible in that it’s always the next guy up because they have a way they play and everybody know it,” Gobrecht said.

And what does she envision from her system down the line when her recruits are fully in place?

“As we continue to build the quality of play from top to bottom and have more players we can count on, then we will be subbing more and it will be very fast paced and that level of intensity will be going on both ends of the floor,” said Gobrecht, whose recruiting prowess can be seen in freshmen Kaelin Immel (14.5 ppg) and Emily Conroe (10.4). ”We’re going to be pushing it like crazy. It will be fun. You see glimpses of it now, but it will be fun.”

Both of these coaches, who intend to bring a Runnin’ Falcons style to the academy, seemed to equate fun with more scoring. And that’s what they intend to achieve in their style of play.

“You need to have fun,” Pilipovich said. “If we aren’t having fun in what we’re doing, we’re not very good at it.”

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