LARAMIE, Wyo. - Few players in college basketball have won more often despite their weaknesses over the past 2½ years than those wearing Air Force’s uniform.
But on certain nights, in certain venues, against certain teams, those weaknesses become so glaring that all of the Falcons’ virtues amount to little. Because for all the poorly executed possessions that cost the Falcons late, their 55-50 loss to Wyoming on Wednesday night came down to one thing: Air Force’s inability to rebound against one of the Mountain West Conference’s best rebounding teams. Though the Falcons (14-2, 2-1 Mountain West) concede the rebounding edge almost every game, they were dominated 41-18 Wednesday and didn’t do enough in other areas to make up for it. As a result, 5,923 fans at Arena-Auditorium were able to celebrate the end of Air Force’s 12-game winning streak with chants of “Overrated” — even though the Falcons aren’t ranked in the Top 25. “They had as many offensive rebounds as we had re- bounds (18),” Falcons coach Jeff Bzdelik said. “Obviously if you can’t culminate your defensive possession with a defensive rebound, it’s not good.” Though rebounding has been a sore spot for Air Force for 2½ years, the Falcons seemed to be making strides until Wednesday, when Wyoming (9-7, 2-1) scored 12 of its 55 points on second-chance attempts. The most critical came with 43.1 seconds remaining. Wyoming freshman Brandon Ewing made a pair of free throws to break a 50-50 tie that came after Air Force didn’t control a miss inside by Justin Williams (11 points, 13 rebounds). “We play great defense but we have to block out,” forward Jacob Burtschi said. “They weren’t shooting well, but they were getting putbacks and that’s what killed us.” For all of Air Force’s problems on the boards, it had plenty of chances to win the game. After trailing by nine points early, Air Force clawed back to a 44-41 lead with 8:33 remaining and twice had the ball with a chance to extend it. But the Falcons frittered away two offensive possessions, a theme they repeated as they scored two points in the final 4:30. After Wyoming’s Steve Leven made it 50-50 on a 3-pointer with 2:20 left, Air Force had the ball twice. But the Falcons didn’t get off a good shot either time, including a poorly selected 3-pointer by Burtschi with 1:20 left. With Air Force down 52-50 the Falcons turned the ball over in the final minute. Air Force made 5 of 19 attempts from 3-point range, its worst output of the season, and had an uncharacteristically low eight assists on 20 baskets. “You can’t win a game when you don’t rebound the basketball and you have defensive breakdowns and you have bad turnovers,” Bzdelik said. “We had some bad offensive possessions.” CONTACT THE WRITER: 636-0258 or firstname.lastname@example.org NEXT Air Force (14-2, 2-1 MWC) vs. TCU (4-11, 0-1), 2 p.m. Saturday, 740/560 AM