At an afternoon walkthrough on Wednesday, Air Fore coach Dave Pilipovich decided to revisit an inbound play designed for a quick score.
It proved to be a pivotal review session that paid off in a 73-65 victory over Denver.
With about 1 second left in the first half, the Falcons found themselves under their basket inbounding the ball. Just as assistant coach Andy Moore had designed and the team practiced earlier in the day, Lavelle Scottie set a screen, then came off a screen, jumped and converted a perfectly placed lob pass from Chris Joyce near the basket. Scottie drew a foul, converted the free throw and gave Air Force a three-point halftime lead.
“We’re getting better,” Pilipovich said. “Our last three games, we’re getting better and we’re improving. It’s fun to be around.”
That transition to in-game execution wasn’t the only evidence of growth for Air Force (4-5) that came from this victory.
When Denver (2-7) made those late runs, the Falcons turned to Caleb Morris and Chris Joyce. Morris scored five of his team-high 16 points in the final 3½ minutes. Joyce scored eight of his 13 points in that same span.
“We’re ready to turn that corner,” Morris said. “Now we’ve just got to keep working and keep this momentum going.”
Air Force also leaned on an all-around performance from its lone senior, Pervis Louder. He locked down Denver’s top scorer, Ronnie Harrell Jr., limiting him to five points on 2-of-7 shooting. Louder also scored 12 points, making 5 of 6 shots, and pulled down five rebounds.
Scottie was 0 for 5 from 3-point range but scored 14 points with nine rebounds. He also turned the ball over just once after averaging 4.1 over his first eight games.
The Falcons hit 7 of 26 3-pointers (26.9 percent). But this year they felt they had the group that could overcome those nights, which had plagued this program in the past.
On Wednesday they overcame it by hitting 18 of 21 free throws, turning the ball over just three times in the second half.
This is the growth Pilipovich has wanted to see since the season began and feels he has over the past two weeks — just in time for Army’s visit on Saturday.
“Every game is a lesson,” Morris said.