The best two-game stretch of Pervis Louder’s career has come since a shift to a new role. But at what cost to Air Force?
The junior guard scored 14 points at Denver on Saturday, dunking home the game-winner with 3.7 seconds remaining. He then scored 15 points with seven rebounds and six assists in a victory over Western State on Wednesday.
Louder made 10 of 12 shots in the games.
So, what’s the problem?
Those were the first two games Louder has come off the bench this season. As he was sitting, Air Force spotted Denver an 18-3 lead and Western State an early 10-point advantage.
It’s not as if his presence immediately fixed the situation. Denver’s lead swelled to 27-5 before a Louder 3-pointer began the comeback, while Division II Western State went up 27-4 before Louder scored four straight points, assisted on the next two Falcons’ buckets and then hit two free throws to spur the rally.
“He really brings the energy,” said teammate Lavelle Scottie of Louder. “He gets the ball and he just goes. We want him to go.”
Coach Dave Pilipovich pondered the dilemma of when best to tap into Louder’s energy. He has been playing starter’s minutes since going the bench – his 55 minutes in the past two games trail only Trevor Lyons (66) and Scottie (57), and no one else is over 48 – and he’s been effective in this role.
“You can argue, well, maybe (starting him) gives you that early and then maybe you don’t get off to a slow start,” Pilipovich said. “But I think he gets a chance to settle in and see what’s going on. And then sometimes he comes in and there’s a second-line player with him and maybe he’s a better player, and now they have to adjust to a first-line guy and he’s already on a roll going. … It’s kind of nice to have that to go to off the bench.”
For some players, a drop from the starting lineup would bruise the ego. Louder, who has seen his playing time fluctuate throughout his time with the Falcons, said he doesn’t particularly care.
“I guess my role, you could say, is to bring energy,” the 6-foot-4 North Carolina native said. “That’s what I try to do. It doesn’t really matter to me if I’m coming off the bench or if I’m starting. Even if I play one minute, I’m going to give it all I’ve got.”
Whatever role Louder ultimately receives, it’s clear the Falcons need (5-3) him. Identified by Pilipovich as a “Mountain West athlete” during his freshman year, Louder has helped Air Force to a 4-2 record over the past two years when he has scored in double figures.
The team’s most disappointing loss this season – an 81-69 setback at home to Pacific – came during a three-game stretch in which Louder sat with a sprained ankle. When Louder has played at least 20 minutes, Air Force is 3-1. He is shooting a team-best 64 percent from the field and has scored 59 points through five games. He scored 66 points during his sophomore season and 73 as a freshman, so this clearly has the makings of a breakout campaign.
Louder’s role isn’t the only question as this team settles into a rotation. Senior guards C.J. Siples and Jacob Van, who at times have carried the team over the past two years, have seen their playing time sharply drop. They combined for just 22 minutes over the past two games. Dane Norman hasn’t settled into a regular spot, though his springy 6-foot-9 frame will certainly keep him in the mix.
The Falcons have four games remaining – starting Wednesday against Abilene Christian (5-3) at 7 p.m. at Clune Arena – to sort through these issues before they travel to New Mexico for the Mountain West opener Dec. 27.