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Shooting will be the key for Air Force basketball as it begins finishing stretch with four of five games at home

February 20, 2018 Updated: February 20, 2018 at 8:45 pm
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photo - Air Force forward Ryan Swan shoots the ball against Boise State.  The Air Force Falcons played the Boise State Broncos at the Air Force Academy on Saturday, January 27, 2018.  (Photo by Jerilee Bennett, The Gazette)
Air Force forward Ryan Swan shoots the ball against Boise State. The Air Force Falcons played the Boise State Broncos at the Air Force Academy on Saturday, January 27, 2018. (Photo by Jerilee Bennett, The Gazette) 

Air Force’s basketball team didn’t begin shooting on Boise State’s floor until about an hour and a half before Saturday’s game.

There was nothing nefarious going on, but the Falcons couldn’t get the arena midday on Friday because the Broncos’ men and women were practicing. Then in the evening there was a gymnastics meet. So Air Force stayed in Las Vegas an extra day and practiced at UNLV before going to Boise on Friday evening.

The Falcons then shot 38.5 percent and lost by 24.

Why rehash details surrounding yet another road game this program would like to forget? Because these are sorts of things Air Force (10-15, 4-9 Mountain West) won’t have to contend with for the rest of the regular season.

The next three games are at home, beginning with a 7:30 p.m. game Wednesday against San Diego State (15-10, 7-7). Then Utah State visits Saturday and Fresno State on Monday. A bus trip to Wyoming on Feb. 28 marks the only remaining travel on the docket, and then San Jose State visits in the finale on March 3.

It’s a hectic schedule, but it’s one that keeps this team close to home. And that could make a difference.

“There’s going to be some times where we’re just going to have to make some shots,” coach Dave Pilipovich said. “Being at home, hopefully we’ll be better at that.”

San Diego State, which beat Air Force 81-50 in their first meeting, has enough superior size and length to be able to play a zone defense and negate anything the Falcons might want to do in the paint.

That makes Air Force’s 3-point shooting critical, and it’s long been that way in this series. Since 2012, the Falcons are 3-9 against the Aztecs, with four of those losses coming by double digits. In the blowout losses, Air Force shot just 15 percent from 3-point range. In the close losses, it shot 33 percent. In the three victories, it shot 35 percent.

With five games in 11 days, Air Force is going to lighten the practice load but put an emphasis on shooting. The team will bank on the extra shooting time, plus the comforts and stability of the home gym, providing the boost it needs for a strong finish.

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