Army’s hulking 6-foot-9 forward Charlie Peterson received a pass on the interior, thrust his 224 pounds into Air Force’s Lucas Moerman to create space and he went up for a layup.
Moerman wasn’t having it, stepping back to recover his footing and elevating for a block.
The tone was set there, 90 seconds into the game, and reinforced when Moerman ran to the other end and finished a possession with a dunk.
That sequence occurred as the Falcons scored the first nine points of the game. They then built a 33-point lead and toppled Army 76-58 at Clune Arena on Saturday.
Air Force (7-1) has won seven straight for the first time since 2007 and is off to its best start since that 2006-07 team opened 17-1.
“I feel like defense is one of the things that gets me going in the first place, so getting a few stops like that early was really helpful for me,” said the 6-foot-10, 205-pound Moerman, a Doherty graduate from Colorado Springs. “I think it helped the team get ahead in the beginning. And when we looked up and it was 20-8 or something, it was like, ‘Wow, we can really do this.’ So we just kept pushing from there.”
The push was led by the defense. Army hit just four first-half field goals. Four. On 25 attempts. The Falcons blocked three shots in the first half – a pair from Moerman – while piling up 10 steals.
The offense was roaring right along with the defense. The Falcons shot 60% in the first half. A.J. Walker scored 16 during a 24-0 run on his way to a game-high 24 points.
The score was 45-13 at the break.
“Going up 30 against them, that’s a ton of fun,” Moerman said.
Army made a run in the second half to make the final score less glaringly lopsided, but the deficit was never under 14 points.
Freshman point guard Ethan Taylor flirted with a triple-double, scoring 15 points with eight assists and eight rebounds along with four steals. Moerman had seven points with three blocks and six rebounds. Nikc Jackson, the other half of Air Force’s center combo with Moerman, had seven points with five rebounds and two blocks.
“Obviously I would have liked to see some better things there (in the second half), but our guys played terrific,” Falcons coach Joe Scott said. “Every guy that played, played terrific. That’s how you build leads like that and I’m just really proud and happy with how our guys are playing.”
It’s the second straight win against Army for the Falcons, who had won five straight in the series prior to Air Force’s road win in Dec. 19.
This was the Falcons’ most lopsided victory in the series.
A season-high crowd of 1,853 was on hand for the game, including a crammed section of cadets behind the north basket.
“I love playing in front of fans, especially my fellow cadets,” Taylor said. “It’s something I thought was going to happen. The Army game’s a big game and I’m glad a lot of people came out and showed support.”
Army (4-4) was led by Jalen Rucker’s 17 points. The Black Knights shot 34.7%, compared to 55.8 for Air Force.
“We came out and we actually played like a veteran team that knows they’re good and this is a big game and we’re going to go do what we do,” Scott said. “That’s how we played.”