One fans perspective on the AFA loss to Illinois 69-78 in the '06 NCAA Tourney
Late night here in San Diego, got to get up early for a standby flight. It was a fight tonight and we just couldn't get over the hump the few times we needed to.
First the crowd. Outstanding. Air Force fans were very well represented by the Section 8 guys and gals that made the trek by plane, train and automobile out to San Diego along with a myriad of fans from Colorado and out of state. It was a great crowd who kept the noise up for 40 minutes (and even started some cheers while we waited outside). The University of Illinois was well represented but I think we outnumbered them. Due to the late start of the game (bomb scare) and TV schedule...our fan support didn't start until 5-10 minutes into the game. They didn't open the gates until 5 minutes prior to tip-off; as they were getting the earlier game's fan out (from the 1st session). Once everyone was out the staff needed to check that the place was empty before letting us in...but the TV schedule, already behind, took precedence and the game began quickly. I was in the first 400 or so to get in and barely got to the seat for the tip-off; so we weren't loud at first but made up for it later.
The game was tough. UI is a very good team who's speed and ball handling with quick passes was excellent. While they had men up court when we brought the ball in, they really didn't press or try to trap us down the court, rather played a full court 1v1 most of the game. Didn't affect the game at all. As everyone knows, they shot the lights out, particularly in the second half where they were 63% on 3's after a 27% 3's in the first. Whenever we made a slight run in the second half they quickly hit a three. Refs were pretty neutral in the first half, but seemed to make (from our point of view) some questionable calls the second half.
Overall, our guys worked hard for 40 minutes. Falcon defense made Illinois work hard for a good look, and at least 5 times in the first half alone, the shot clock was down less than 5sec before they got their shot off; and it wasn't by design (i.e. trying to run the clock down). The Illini hit mostly from the outside, 2's and 3's for their scores. While they did get some in the paint, it wasn't 'banging" that resulted in their win, it was the good shooting. Their 11-0 run in the first half was the killer that we never could get back through. Offensive boards and second chances during that 11-0 run were the key. While we didn't shoot bad, Tim Anderson shot 0-3 (3's) during the first half and that hurt. Jake Burtschi was only 2-5 on 3's while overall we shot 13-27, 48%. John Frye had some good looks and was 2-4 with his 3s.
Antoine Hood was steady with good looks and good defense overall. Got called for a couple questionable fouls.
Jacob Burtschi worked hard and while scoring 13, missed an easy backdoor off a nice Andrew Henke pass that I think could have scored or got fouled when loosely covered under the basket but Jake elected to kick out for a 3 that missed. While he drew two charges, he "fell to the floor" once when he thought the UI guy was going to hit him, but the guy just went by the side and scored. Jake: you are too good for that...play defense and don't worry about getting a charge call that wasn't there, cost us 2pts.
Danny Nwaelele was solid with good D and shots. Early 2 fouls hurt his playing time in the 1st but he came out strong in the second.
John Frye played tough overall. Good to see him take a shot, then another even after a miss. He was 2-4 in field goals (2-4 3's) and 2 free throws for 8pts..nice night. Got called for 2 or 3 travels. Wondering if the TV perspective gave a good look and if walks were real? From row 24 seat 2 I couldn't see a travel.
Tim Anderson played excellent defense but just couldn't hit one tonight. All his 14 minutes were in the first half except for the last 2 of the 2nd half. Tim needs to find his confidence during the off season. He can and should be a primary shooter, we believe in him and hopefully he can find that again.
Andrew Henke played probably his best game. No bad fouls, good ball handling and defense, and a timely 3pt shot. He will be a major contributor next year, and might give Tim a run for the starting job for our departing Antoine.
Overall very proud of the guys and Coach Bzdelik. We scored 69pts on last years NCAA final four team (ok...they went a little further than the final four) who had players back. We never quit and kept going until the horn sounded. An outstanding 24-7 record. I think we will be back in the Dance again next year....and I'm getting Falcon basketball withdrawals already.