The stat line that probably factored most heavily in Air Force’s 87-56 victory on Wednesday belonged to San Jose State center Michael Steadman.
After averaging 22.5 points and 14.5 points in two games against Air Force, the 6-foot-10 junior center was held to one point and six turnovers.
The credit for that went to the Falcons’ defensive scheme that often had Steadman facing double teams, but the person most responsible was Ryan Swan.
“I think I was more active on him,” Swan said. “He’s a very good player and so big, skilled around the basket. … I just moved my feet and I was able to kind of stay a step ahead of him for most of the night. I think that was what got to him.”
San Jose State won just one game in the conference season, and the only realistic hope it had to get past Wednesday’s play-in round was to have strong outside shooting complemented by an active Steadman underneath.
With Steadman taken out of the equation, the rest couldn’t fall into place.
“We worked on that for a couple days,” Air Force coach Dave Pilipovich said. “And we did a good job.”
Tomes knocks down shots
A quiet, but potentially large, development for Air Force on Wednesday was the shooting of junior guard Sid Tomes, who scored eight points while knocking down a pair of 3s.
Tomes made just 5-of-42 3-pointers during the conference season (12 percent). He had made just 1 of 11 from 3 against San Jose State this year.
This season had been something of a stunning disappointment for the guard who hit 34.7 percent from 3-point range (31 of 89) last year as a sophomore.
“Sid’s picture has been on a milk carton for a lot of this year,” Pilipovich said. “Wonder where he’s been. Sid, where have you been? But he’s such a great kid. He keeps working, working.”
Flashbacks from start
Air Force opened with a 25-0 run in an upset victory over Wyoming at the Mountain West Tournament in 2017, so it knows firsthand what a strong start can do for a team in an elimination game.
It was nearly on the wrong side of that Wednesday when San Jose State opened with the game’s first 13 points.
“I think we just stayed positive,” said Chris Joyce, whose three-point play ended the opening run.
For Swan, the win over Wyoming was one of his best memories at the academy in part because it allowed him to miss one more day of recognition training as a freshman. Now he can keep that memory and not have it sullied by what might have been a similar game, only this in a loss.
“If there’s one thing I’ve learned about this game, it’s a game of runs,” Swan said. “And you just gotta make yours.”
Pilipovich honors fan
Pilipovich choked up when recognizing longtime Air Force fan Floyd “Farmer” Withrow, who died last week.
“Farmer loved the academy, worked at the prep school and was a great gentleman,” he said. “He loved this team, and I know he’s watching today.”