Air Force champions of AFA Classic tourney

Air Force basketball begins its season with a 1st place finish in their inaugual "Air Force Classic" tournament. The Falcons were a bit sluggish as the UNC Bears gave them all they wanted in this championship game. But the Falcons overcame and found many positives to build on for the season. Dartmouth took third over VMI.

So, I wake up this morning and no one's written a game report.  The Gazette has a "production delay" so there's no paper for Doolie the WonderLab to retrieve (which depresses and confuses him).  while the coffee's brewing, I'll write a quick report.

First, while the crowd was quite loud, knowledgeable (of course) and spirited, there were easily a thousand less in attendance than Friday night.  Cadet attendance was, frankly, terrible considering that 1300+ doolies were restricted and had nowhere else to go.

IMHO the Falcons faced a much more talented team in UNC than Dartmouth--a team that provided the kind of challenges they'll likely see in the MWC.  UNC had a couple of big horses in the middle, a small forward or two that could shoot the ball, and one of the quickest point guards (with the longest name ever) that we'll see (Panagiopassthehummus or something like that).  I'm not sure why he didn't play 40 minutes, but he harassed well on defense, penetrated and passed well, and shot the 3.  I presume he's an international from Greece--and a good find by their coach.

The first half exposed a weakness the Birds will have to fix.  UNC had 10 Offensive RBs in the first 20 minutes alone.  Our position was not as good as the nigh before and the refs weren't callin' much inside (neither team made it to the bonus in the first half).  So, despite only shooting 25%, UNC was within striking distance.

They pressed us full-court almost the whole game and, while we didn't give up many turnovers (TOs) on the press, it did take some time to figure it out and move forward.  I thought it was one of the most effective presses against us I'd seen.

Tim Anderson had a great all-around game, shooting 6-12 from beyond the arc and handling the press well.  He passed well and controlled the game, but wasn't the surprise inside influence that he occasionally is and also didn't have the sneaky steals we'd seen so often in the past.  Still, his quiet leadership made the difference down the stretch.

Andrew Henke had one of his best games as a Falcon.  Fewer TOs and mistakes and he was probably the bright spot in terms of rebounding.  He did occasionally make a bad shot selection, but his reversing lay-up to the hoop off of a fast break was very sweet.

Keith Maren played tough physically inside, but didn't position as well in terms of rebounding.  He got his first personal foul (PF) late in the second half, surprising us all.  Maybe a few earlier fouls (I can't believe I'm saying this) might've been worthwhile in terms of staking a claim to the paint.

Evan Washington played very well--hitting probably the key 3-pointer of the game late in the 2nd when UNC had closed to 6 or 7.  It was NBA at the shot-clock-buzzer from the right wing and sent the crowd into a frenzy.

Matt Holland can shoot free throws (FTs).  I don't think he's hit iron in two games.  Plus, he established defensive position well.  I liked his game a lot.  Some more experience on rebounding positioning and a little more work on the pull up jumper will help, but he took some pick-and-roll passes well and went strong to the rim.

Anwar Johnson got into early foul trouble (2 PFs in first 3 minutes), so he was a non-factor in the first half.  In the second, his D made a big difference.  His highlight was a superb alley-oop slam near the end of regulation on a pass (I think) from Tim A that went all the way over the rim from left to right, into his hands and jammed down.

Adam Hood was workmanlike.  He brought the ball up against the press and spelled Tim and Evan enough to keep them effective, but Adam is just too hesitant when he's got a shot or a chance to drive to the hoop.  He's got to be more assertive when the time is right.

Finally, Eric Kenzik played a solid game.  He takes a charge very well, but I would've liked to see him drive to the hoop a little more.  Our "3 Big Guy" rotation seems to be established, but I'd like to see Grant Parker or one other player make it a 4-man group.

All-in-all, we looked a little sloppier on the court with some silly TOs and a couple of botched backdoor/inside passes that were timely but mishandled.  Again, like the game against the Canadians, we need to get in the face of the 3-point shooters quickly.  Our D focused on their big scorer (Taibi) and shut him down well, but that allowed others to shoot uncontested and we didn't adjust.  The very physical inside game will serve us well, too, and we definitely need to get our opponents off of our backs and push them out to manage the boards.

Finally, kudos to the UNC coach.  He seems to have made great strides up there bringing in some JC transfers, int'ls, etc.  It will be interesting to see how their season goes.  I could definitely see them surprising a couple of bigger name teams.

See you on Wednesday
Stalagian Out!
'81 Second to None!

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