Updated: January 22, 2014 at 11:09 pm
Air Force spent more time looking at the pursuer in the rearview mirror than paying attention to what it was doing.
In doing so, it forgot one key component.
"We just took our foot off the pedal," forward Kamryn Williams said.
The Falcons led Wyoming by 15 points early, then tensed up and watched it slowly unraveled into a 66-59 loss Wednesday at Clune Arena.
"You try to relax them, crack a joke, tell them they're fine, go back to your training," Air Force coach Dave Pilipovich said. "But we just kept getting tighter and tighter, especially as the score got closer."
Wyoming (12-6, 3-2 Mountain West) had the deficit down to seven by halftime, to four with 15:41 remaining and finally took the lead with a 3-pointer from Nathan Sobey with 3:59 on the clock. Tre' Coggins immediately answered with a 3 for the Falcons, but the shot at 3:22 proved to be the final field goal for the home team.
"It was tough," said Justin Hammonds, who scored 13 points and had a team-high seven rebounds for Air Force. "Coach said it the best, he said we were out there having fun when we were playing the best, when we were up 15. We started letting things slip away and a lot of our players, including me, got tense and nervous."
If the nerves weren't too much to overcome, Larry Nance Jr. was. The son of the former NBA standout scored 20 points and had nine rebounds for Wyoming. Nance scored 10 points in the final 8:25.
"He does a great job of pretending like he doesn't want to do anything and then destroy you," said Air Force's Kamryn Williams, who scored 17 points. "He did a good job of picking us apart in the paint, using his size to his advantage."
Air Force (9-9, 3-4) is far more accustomed to being the team on the other side of an early hole, a role played to perfection by Wyoming under assistant coach Allen Edwards, who stepped in after Larry Shyatt was too ill to coach.
"The one thing, when you get put in this situation, you have to show your guys confidence," said Edwards, who won a pair of titles as a player at Kentucky in the 1990s. "You can't go into the huddle wavering or anything. The biggest thing that we, as a staff, tried to get across to our guys was staying the course. If we keep at it and stick with the game plan, it would eventually turn our way."
Wyoming's plan included getting to the free-throw line, where it made 23 of 24 - including 14 of 14 in the second half.
Air Force made it to the line just three times in the second half.
"We just kept backing up, backing up instead of attacking it," Pilipovich said.
Coggins scored 15 points for Air Force and Josh Adams, a Parker native and Chaparral graduate, had 17 for the Cowboys.