Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Struggling Air Force offense to 'let it fly' at Wyoming

By Brent Briggeman Updated: February 24, 2014 at 6:07 pm

The shot clock should not be a factor for Air Force on Tuesday.

Fed up with the offensive struggles that have left his team short of 60 points for eight consecutive games, coach Dave Pilipovich has given his players the OK to shoot and shoot quickly within the offense starting with Tuesday's 7:05 p.m. road game at Wyoming.

"We went green light yesterday, we turned the green light on," Pilipovich said. "We said, hey, you've all got the green light. You're good shooters, you've shot in the offense, if you're open catch it and shoot the ball.

"Let's be a little freer on offense, take more shots. We've got to create some more offense."

Much of the Falcons' woes seem to be mental. When the team was playing loose, particularly early in the conference season, the shots were falling. It was against Wyoming in the first meeting Jan. 22 that Air Force sprang to a 15-point first-half lead and had a clear path to a 4-3 start to the Mountain West season.

Instead, the Falcons (10-15, 4-10 Mountain West) fell apart in that game, clearly started thinking too much, doubting what they were doing and the play reflected it. Nothing has changed since. Air Force's only victory since that point was a 51-48 win against a San Jose State team that hasn't beaten anyone in the conference.

The prolonged tailspin, particularly on offense, has led to a number of text messages and emails with advice for Pilipovich. Most of them include the disclaimer that, "I'm no basketball expert."

Well, the guy on the opposite side of the floor Tuesday - Wyoming's Larry Shyatt - is an expert, particularly when it comes to defense. His Cowboys have the Mountain West's second-best defense (behind only San Diego State), in surrendering just 60.7 points per game.

Wyoming (17-10, 8-6) will be playing without Larry Nance Jr., who scored 20 points with nine rebounds, three blocks and two steals in the first game, who will miss the remainder of the season with an injury.

The Cowboys generally like to slow an opponent down and shorten games (its offense, subsequently, ranks second to last at 65.4 points per game). That mentality should provide an entertaining clash with Air Force's attempt to keep the offensive pedal floored Tuesday.

"Take all the question out of it, let it go," Pilipovich said. "Hold it high and let it fly. When in doubt, shoot, as one coach said; always be in doubt. So shoot the ball. We're going to try and make some more shots, that's what we're going to try to do."

GAME PREVIEW

Air Force (10-15, 4-10 Mountain West) at Wyoming (17-10, 8-6)

7:05 p.m., Root Sports, 740 AM

Summary: A late collapse in the team's first meeting sent Air Force on a spiral from which it has yet to recover; here's a chance, with Wyoming without star Larry Nance Jr., for the Falcons to reverse that trend.

Key stat: Two. Air Force has won its past two games in Laramie, where it is just 13-37 all-time.

Player Air Force must contain: Josh Adams. The sophomore guard from Parker provides energy and swagger for the Cowboys, as well as a big chunk of offense (11.3 points per game and 17 in the first meeting). Slowing him will be important.

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