Each jab step put onto the Clune Arena hardwood by Jarod Lucas was a twisting of the proverbial knife.
The Nevada senior pushed forward, all to step back and drain a first-half 3-pointer from atop the arc as part of his game-high 28 points. Will Baker added to his teammate's success with a loose ball put through on the next possession, via dunk over Beau Becker, after three Falcons seemingly got a steal just before.
For seemingly the first time this season, an opposing team brought all of the effort and scrappiness Air Force preaches within and ran past the Falcons, 75-69, to keep one team's flawless start in conference play, and another's winless.
Scoring runs of 9-0, and 8-2 in the first and second halves showed the Falcons what it takes to compete in the league, but also how hard it is to eliminate double-digit leads — as they have been forced to do in each of the first two Mountain West losses.
Saturday, it was a 15-3 deficit before the first media timeout.
"We need to have confidence," Jake Heidbreder said. "Guys have to be confident in everything we do — shooting and defending. If everyone locks in and does that, we'll see improvement."
Answers to Nevada's 6-foot-11 Will Baker weren't available, either.
Lucas Moerman, despite undergoing successful shoulder surgery after finals, is still out for the year. Corbin Green's minutes were limited to only 10 in the loss, and Beau Becker played a season-high, 22 minutes. Nikc Jackson even received his first minutes since an early December loss to Portland State.
Baker finished with 16 points and was a catalyst for the Wolf Pack outscoring the Falcons with either of their first two bigs on the floor.
Joe Scott wants internal answers.
The Falcons are one of the youngest teams in the country, and for several players, this is their first experience against the Mountain West.
Projections would tell you Air Force's chances of winning ended when the non-conference season ended — the Falcons set to be underdogs in each of their remaining games.
Scott won't accept that, and he's looking for the program's next group of players who won't, either.
"The whole league season is (hard)," Scott said. "We have eight teams in the top 100. Since we've come back from Christmas, I haven't been so happy with the guys, at times.
"When you love basketball, and you play to win, nothing bothers you. You're up for the challenge, it doesn't beat you, you beat it. I have high expectations and we need to exceed them."