Lavelle Scottie was a high school senior in Texas in Jan. 2015, two months removed from his commitment to Air Force.
Speaking on Thursday, Scottie said had didn’t realize Falcons hadn’t won a road game in the Mountain West since then – Jan. 28, 2015 at San Jose State to be exact.
“I had no idea about that,” Scottie said. “We’re going to break this streak at San Jose this weekend.”
The streak now stands at 24 games. It spans the final four road games of 2015, all nine in 2016, nine more in 2016-17 and a pair of trips in December to New Mexico and Fresno State.
The 18 players who have started games for the Falcons during the streak have come from 10 states, four time zones and range in age from DeLovell Earls, Justin Hammonds and Marek Olesinski in the Class of 2015 to Keaton Van Soelen in the Class of 2021.
In addition to two Zachs (Kocur and Moer), there have been two Ryans (Manning and Swan) and a Lyons (Trevor).
It has come under two U.S. Presidents, two Air Force superintendents and athletic directors and the release of three Star Wars and seven Kevin Hart movies. Lonzo Ball was a high school junior when the streak began and his father was anonymous on the national stage.
The streak very nearly ended after just three games at Fresno State on March 4, 2015 when the Falcons overcame a 15-point second-half deficit and had a contested layup from Lyons that didn’t fall as time expired.
Lyons was a freshman then. He’s a senior now, and that elusive road victory still hasn’t come.
For coach Dave Pilipovich, the low points of the streak came in an overtime loss at San Jose State last year and, most crushing, in a double-overtime defeat at UNLV last season when the Falcons failed to secure a rebound after a missed free throw at the end of regulation, setting up Jovan Mooring’s banked-in 3 at the buzzer.
Saturday’s 2 p.m. game in San Jose marks the best chance to end the streak, considering the Spartans (3-13, 0-5 Mountain West) are the only team in the conference with a lower RPI than the Falcons.
San Jose State underwent an unexpected coaching change during the offseason, bringing in Colorado assistant Jean Prioleau, and lost star sophomore center Brandon Clarke to a transfer to Gonzaga.
But in Pilipovich’s office sits a sign reflecting his favorite quote from his days working at Michigan under Tommy Amaker. It reads, “Never a layup,” and Pilipovich knows that is applicable here against a San Jose State team that has won three straight against Air Force, took UNLV to overtime last week and lost by four to Colorado State after holding a double-digit lead.
“What are they thinking? It’s their chance to get rolling, right?” Pilipovich said. “So we have to go in the with the mindset of Nevada and UNLV and compete, because it’s going to be a tough game.”
Those two games – competitive home losses to the Wolf Pack and Runnin' Rebels – seem to have awoken the Falcons (6-10, 0-4) and, more importantly, shown the blueprint for how this team can be successful.
The 6-foot-6 Scottie scored 42 points in those games while fellow sophomore Ryan Swan, a 6-foot-7 center, had 31. The combo that does much of its work on the interior is shooting a combined 57 percent in conference play from the field and 80 percent from the free-throw line.
For a team that has shot just 39.9 percent during the road losing streak, the pair provides hope for an inside-out approach that should prove less susceptible to shooting slumps.
That ability has also provided a sense of building confidence even for a team that hasn’t beaten an Division I opponent in seven tries since Dec. 2. In the past two years, there was a sense that Air Force needed to win at San Jose State to prevent going 0-fer on the road, which is how it played out.
This year, there’s not that all-eggs-in-this-basket urgency to snap the skid.
“Even if we drop this game, we feel like we can get another one,” Swan said. “It’s just another game.”