Out of the wild blue

By DAN WOLKEN - THE GAZETTE Updated: February 12, 2006 at 12:00 am • Published: February 12, 2006
There was barely enough time on the clock to run any kind of play, much less one that could be precise enough to win the game. There wasn’t an ounce of breathing room on the scoreboard. And so as Air Force sophomore guard Tim Anderson stood on the baseline underneath the cadet section at sold-out Clune Arena on Saturday afternoon with the basketball in his hands and a Wyoming defender in front of him, there were really only two options. Overtime or perfection. Perfection, it was. Ninety-three feet of it to forward Jacob Burtschi, who caught the baseball-style pass, drew a foul and nailed a free throw with four-tenths of a second remaining to give Air Force a dramatic 62-61 victory. “My dad, being a high school coach, always gets mad at me if I miss my free throws, so honest to God, when I stepped up to the line I was like, ‘My dad’s going to disown me if I miss this free throw,’” Burtschi said. “So I stepped up and knocked it down so I knew when I called him after the game he won’t be mad at me.” Said Anderson: “The situation just worked out perfectly. It wasn’t really me. Just really blessed with a great pass, really blessed that everything turned out right.” But yes, it was Anderson who pump-faked the pass to get Wyoming’s defense out of sorts, then threw the ball right on the money to Burtschi. And it was Burtschi who stepped to the line and made the free throw, then intentionally hit the front of the rim with the second and caught the rebound to run out the clock. And it was Wyoming forward Justin Williams who was forced to haul down Burtschi trying to prevent a buzzerbeating layup. And also Williams who blew a chance to put Wyoming ahead, missing a free throw with 3.9 seconds remaining after his first tied the game at 61-61. It was Wyoming’s second loss in two weeks decided by last-second free throws, dropping the Cowboys to 12-12 overall and 5-6 in the league. Air Force snapped its two-game losing streak, improving to 19-5, 7-4. “We thought (Anderson) was going to overthrow it and hopefully we’d get the ball on our end, but it was a perfect pass,” Wyoming guard Brandon Ewing said. “You’d think he was a quarterback.” The finish was a fitting end to a game that featured 11 ties and 14 lead changes. Wyoming took the biggest lead for either team at 52-46 when center Derek Wabbington’s putback layup went down with 6:14 left. And though the Falcons fought back with six straight points to tie the game, they were in another tough spot down 58-55 with 1:58 left. But center John Frye converted a layup to bring the deficit to one, and guard Matt McCraw swished a 3-pointer with one minute left to put Air Force in front 60-58. It was the biggest shot of the day for McCraw, who had missed his previous four attempts from long range, made just 3 of 10 total and missed a free throw with 11 seconds left that could have been crucial because Air Force was clinging to a 61-60 lead at the time. None of that mattered, however, as Falcons coach Jeff Bzdelik huddled his team to draw up the play that Burtschi said would probably work that perfectly maybe two out of 10 times, given the situation. “We have two or three guys that can throw that pass,” Bzdelik said. “There’s some guys that can’t. It’s not an easy pass to throw. Tim threw a strike today.” CONTACT THE WRITER: 636-0258 or dan.wolken@gazette.com
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