Air Force basketball players raise their hands following the playing of the academy's alma mater at the conclusion of a 78-71 victory over Texas State on Saturday at Clune Arena. (BRENT BRIGGEMAN, THE GAZETTE)

Air Force with the rebound. A hodgepodge of sports psychology with the assist.

Ryan Swan attempted to set a stress-free mood with some old-school rhythm and blues music. Lavelle Scottie told his teammates to forget individual accolades, stats and preseason expectations and just play for each other. Coach Dave Pilipovich encouraged the team to relax and have fun.

And what happened? No field goals for the first 4 minutes and an early deficit to Texas State.

This was a team so desperate to avoid an 0-2 start that it was wiggling itself even deeper into the quicksand of frustration.

So, what allowed the Falcons to raise their hands together, victorious 78-71 Saturday afternoon over a Texas State team that won 24 games last year?

Some of those mind games worked. But mostly because the performance on defense took the pressure off of the offense, and with the tension gone the shots went in. The Falcons made 12 3-pointers after hitting just one in the opener.

“When it comes down to it, our defense really decides how we react on offense," said Scottie, who finished with 15 points, eight rebounds and three assists.

It was a Texas State turnover forced by Sid Tomes after the Falcons trailed 4-0 that finally seemed to jolt the team out of the haze that haunted it against Idaho State in Thursday’s opener.

That turnover keyed an 8-0 run, and the Falcons never again trailed. Texas State shot 36.7 percent in the first half and Air Force climbed in front by as many as 14 points early in the second half.

“The underlying thing is, we’re playing for each other,” Tomes said. “It’s not about the X’s and Os. It’s not about, ‘I’ve got to make shots.’ It’s about where’s your mind at.”

He explained that his mind was on defense and helping his teammates on offense. If Scottie forced an extra defender to collapse in the paint, Tomes was eager to award him with an assist.

"I'm trying to help him out," Tomes said.

The Falcons finished with 16 assists on 22 field goals after five assists in an 89-79 loss to Idaho State. Tomes led the team with four assists while scoring 19, one off his career-high.

Scottie struggled shooting early, starting 0 for 5. So he compensated by drawing a pair of charges and leading the team in rebounding.

“When someone plays for another person they care about, that’s what makes that team dangerous,” Scottie said. “Because they’re willing to do anything, go up to bat for that person no matter what the situation is. That’s what happened tonight.”

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