PROVO, Utah - The record doesn’t exactly show it. The final scores don’t necessarily reflect it. But make no mistake, during the first half of its Mountain West Conference schedule, Air Force didn’t just beat some of its opponents.
The Falcons embarrassed them. And so today Air Force will begin the second half of conference play facing what is sure to be a common theme over the final eight games: an opponent in BYU that has been waiting for a chance at payback. “We know that we will get BYU’s very best punch,” Falcons coach Jeff Bzdelik said. As well they should. In the first meeting Jan. 5, Air Force buried the Cougars 75-59 on national television. And the final score didn’t re- flect the severity of that beating. Air Force raced out to a 42-16 lead late in the first half and didn’t need to do much but run out the clock from there. The Falcons stuck to a similar script in blowout victories against TCU, Utah and Colorado State at Clune Arena. Air Force knows it will have to beat a lot of revenge-minded teams in order to stay in contention for the conference title. The Falcons are one game behind San Diego State, which plays tonight at Colorado State. “Teams aren’t going to let you come in and walk on them back-to-back times,” senior guard Antoine Hood said. “The ante is up for everybody. You’ve got to bring it. You’ve got to want it more than the other team.” Unlike those other three blowout victims, the conference title and a postseason bid are very much in play for BYU. On Jan. 25, BYU was 2-3 in the league and down seven points at home to lowly TCU with less than a minute to play. But the Cougars stormed back, won in overtime and followed up with road victories at Colorado State and New Mexico to end the first half at 5-3. “They’ve been playing great, probably better than anybody in the Mountain West Conference right now,” Bzdelik said. In addition to the momentum, BYU also should have a big crowd on its side at the 22,700-seat Marriott Center. Athletic department officials this week dropped upper-bowl ticket prices to $1 for the game. With all of that going against them, the Falcons know they’ll have a much bigger challenge on their hands than they did in the first meeting. “They’re going to come at you with a different game plan than before, so you have to be prepared for them to change it up against us,” forward Dan Nwaelele said. “It’s a lot more intense (playing a team a second time). You’ve got to be able to execute more.” CONTACT THE WRITER: 636-0258 or firstname.lastname@example.org AFA WOMEN NEXT Teams: No. 19 BYU (18-1, 8-0) at Air Force (11-8, 2-6) Tipoff: 2 p.m., Clune Arena Radio: 1300 AM Series: BYU leads 15-0 About the Cougars: BYU is coming off a 60-55 victory over No. 16 New Mexico, a victory that extended their winning streak to 10 games. The Cougars won despite two starters fouling out. BYU has not lost since Dec. 21 to North Carolina State, 67-65. They have scored at least 60 points in 14 straight games. Doherty graduate Ambrosia Anderson leads the team with 18.7 points and 7.6 rebounds per game. About the Falcons: They are coming off a 76-60 win at Colorado State. They lost 64-43 in the earlier meeting with BYU. Alecia Steele leads a balanced offense with 10.3 points per game and also averages 6.8 rebounds.