LAS VEGAS – The door to the Mountain West Tournament semifinals remains locked to Air Force.
But it didn’t help that the Falcons greased the door handle with 18 turnovers and Fresno State braced the backside of the door with a stack of 3-pointers 16 high.
The Bulldogs topped Air Force 76-50 in the late game Thursday night at the Thomas & Mack Center, as the Falcons were turned away for the 17th time in their 17th trip to conference quarterfinals.
"Their pressure was extremely on point," Air Force coach Dave Pilipovich said. "They changed the game with their extended pressure from the full court to the half court, forced us into turnovers and took us out of rhythm."
Air Force jumped in front 13-6 in the opening minutes, hitting its first five shots. After Wednesday’s 31-point blowout of San Jose State, the Falcons were rolling.
Suddenly Fresno State exploded on a 23-1 run. It never got much better for Air Force against a team it beat on the road less than a month ago.
"They came into Save Mart Center and kicked our butt," Fresno State coach Justin Hutson said. "I think we had our guys' attention."
The Bulldogs built a 17-point halftime lead and, after Air Force closed to within 11 a few times early in the second half, extended the advantage to as much as 34 as it cruised.
Nevada, Utah State, Fresno State and San Diego State – the league’s top four seeds, in that order – will complete the weekend’s action in Las Vegas on Friday and Saturday.
"I told Justin as we shook hands, if they defend like this they have an opportunity to win two more games," Pilipovich said. "I'm not saying we were really bad offensively. They had a lot do with it. Their length and their size and their quickness. They were there."
Lavelle Scottie scored 13 points on 5-of-12 shooting to pace the Falcons. Caleb Morris added 10. They made just 13 of their final 44 field-goal attempts after that hot start.
Air Force was outscored by 30 points from the 3-point line and trailed 15-4 in points off turnovers.
Fresno State (23-8) had four players in double figures, paced by Deshon Taylor's 18.
Air Force, which loses just one senior and figures to bring back its top eight scorers, finishes the season 14-18.