Air Force gets win over Hawaii in CIT

It has been a tumultuous few weeks for the Air Force Falcons. Since the last update the Falcons beat #12 New Mexico in a shocker, got run off the floor by the Running Rebels of UNLV after losing Mike Lyons to injury and sat at home watching the news in disbelief as the NIT selection committee snubbed the Falcons.

With finances tight due to non-existent funds with sequestration, the Falcons received and accepted an invite to Invitational Tournament on the road with first round opponent Hawaii. Traveling teams in this tournament pay no fees so it appeared to be a win for Air Force: Good finances combined with post-season play for a deserving team.

With the positives in place for Air Force, the team still had difficulties to face before tipoff. The Falcons made the long trip to Hawaii needing two flights to get there as all direct flights were full. After transitioning timezones the Falcons, after a long travel day on Tuesday, had a 7 pm Hawaii time (11 pm MDT) tipoff, tough for our cadet athletes who still get up at 0600hrs on non-basketball days for class. Fast forward to a late night tipoff and the Falcons jumped into the game quickly scoring on multiple three point shots and quickly gained an 18-5 lead over the Warriors. But Hawaii had a gameplan to aggressively bang the inside of the lane and while playing tough defense and Air Force did not score for over 7 minutes and found themselves behind by six points, clawing their way back to a 3 point deficit at halftime. Could the Falcons adjust?

Indeed the second half saw an Air Force team that worked hard inside on defense to deny the lane as best they could against Hawaii's big men. At the same time they worked hard to play inside-out on offense, trying to get to the glass, scoring inside and out as the game went on. In the end, it was the Falcons who finished victorious with a 69-65 win. A great adjustment by Coach Pilipovich and staff at halftime to stem the tide from Hawaii and to refine the offense by going inside. Mike Fitzgerald the player of the game but one he can easily share with Kyle Green. Fitzgerald finished with 25pts/8-15/6-10 3pt/3-4FT and 9 rebounds. Kyle 18pts/7-14/4-9 3pt. The Falcons still turned the ball over too many times, but kudo's to senior Todd Fletcher with only 5 points but 4 assists and zero turnovers (with the team having 16)...big, big play by our senior leader. Give Hawaii credit for pressure to force the TO's but also the fatigue factor helped that stat. Officials did not give the benefit of the doubt to the visiting Falcons, only two fouls on Hawaii with 17 minutes or so remaining in the game but by the end of the game more were called on 'both' teams while still in favor of the home team. But the Falcons played through it and came out with the win.

It was a historic win for the Air Force basketball program as it is the first win in 50+ years of Falcon basketball that they won on the road in post season play. A great win! Next up Saturday vs Weber State in Utah, a winner over Cal Poly in their opener. Go Falcons.

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