Air Force led most of the game and held on in the final seconds to defeat Utah State 49-47, opening Mountain West Conference play Wednesday afternoon at Clune Arena.

The Falcons used a steal and three clutch free throws in final 10 seconds of the game to eke out the win.

“It’s great way to start league play," Air Force head coach Joe Scott said. "For our guys to come out and do what they did today was really impressive, having the ability to stay in the game. We’re proud of them.”

Scott emphasized his team's defensive play against the Aggies, which came into the game leading the all-time series with the Falcons 21-6. Air Force grabbed 30 defensive rebounds while recording three blocks and three steals.

"If we can make that a habit, we will begin to make (our opponents) feel uncomfortable," Scott said. "That has a toll on them mentally. It wears on them."

The Aggies comfort level may have been low from the start as they trailed most of the contest. Utah state had the lead for less than five minutes in the first half and took the lead at 24-22 briefly in the opening minute after halftime before a layup by Camden Vander Zwaag and a 3-pointer from Nick Jackson pushed Air Force back in the lead.

Jackson, a 6-8 junior forward, crashed the boards for 12 of his teams defensive rebounds, while recording a key blocked shot to keep Air Force ahead 46-45 with 2:24 left in the game.

The Falcons kept the lead and held the Aggies scoreless over the next 2:16 with help from a Utah State turnover and three missed shots by the visitors, including a missed layup.

The teams traded some free throws in the final seconds. Air Force's A.J. Walker hit two for the Falcons and Jake Heidbreder split a pair with four seconds remaining to put the home team up 49-47.

Utah State's Steven Ashworth had one last shot at a potential game winning three with one second on the clock. But the shot didn't fall and Air Force won.

Walker led the Falcons with 16 points and Heidbreder added 14. Utah State was led by senior forward Justin Bean, who was the only Aggies player in double figures.

"Our guys were good in all areas today," Scott said.

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