DENVER - Air Force basketball coach Dave Pilipovich gave props to a surprising source after overcoming a 22-point deficit to beat Denver on Saturday.
The recipient was his football counterpart at the academy.
“I tell you who I’m going to credit for this victory – coach Troy Calhoun,” Pilipovich said.
Pilipovich, whose team had dropped 22 straight road games before Saturday, said he discussed the road woes with Calhoun this past summer, laying out the full road schedule and routine in search of some help.
Normally, in a week like this, Pilipovich would have had his team practice Thursday after returning home on a flight after Wednesday’s home game. They would then practice again Friday and play Saturday.
At Calhoun's suggestion, Pilipovich eased up on that schedule.
“He said, why don’t you do something on the road before your flight takes off?” Pilipovich said. “So, we changed that. We watched film, we walked through and we didn’t do anything Thursday except what we did there in the hotel. Then we had a hard hour-and-15-minute practice (on Friday), and I think we had legs there in the second half to win the game.
"I want to thank Coach Calhoun for that. I think it helped us.”
It was energy resulting from synergy.
The Falcons outscored Denver 34-21 in the second half Saturday. They committed just four turnovers in the second half (which can often be the sign of sloppy play from a tired team) and they enjoyed these second-half statistical advantages: 18-4 on points in the paint, 12-4 on points off turnovers, 6-1 on second-chance points thanks to seven offensive rebounds, 4-0 on fast-break points.
“I think it gave us some energy there at the end,” Pilipovich said. “I think if we’d have practiced normally we wouldn’t have had something in the tank there to do that.”
If this Calhoun-suggested change can lead to more results like Saturday, and fewer practices, the players are certainly on board.
“It’s a long season,” forward Ryan Manning said after scoring 19 points. “We were definitely fresher and that will help us out in the long run.”