Fresno State was able to fend off Air Force last month at the Save Mart Center, winning 71-65. But the second half of that game could hint at a spot of trouble for the Bulldogs on Wednesday at Clune Arena when they again play the Falcons, one of the more efficient offensive men's basketball teams in the Mountain West Conference.
Down 11 points at halftime, Air Force went into attack mode. The Falcons got to the rim, their guards driving in close rather than settling for jump shots. They had taken 11 of their first 25 shots from the 3-point line, an inordinately high percentage for the Falcons, but put an end to that.
The Falcons scored 22 of their 28 points in the paint in the second half. Thet grabbed seven of their 10 offensive rebounds, scored all 11 of their second-chance points and shot 18 of their 22 on free throws in the final 20 minutes, as well, and as a result they were able to cut fairly deeply into the Bulldogs' lead and make it a two-possession game down the stretch.
After scoring only 16 first-half points, the Falcons put up 49 in the second.
No surprise, then, that is what Fresno State is expecting to see this time around.
"That's probably something that's taken for granted in the Princeton offense," coach Rodney Terry said. "You have your back-door cuts and things of that nature. But they are a really good driving team. They're strong. They can finish their drives. You know, shooting is probably the third thing they do pretty well out of that offense. They drive the ball, one. They pass the ball extremely well, two. And then there's the shooting part of it. But they made an emphasis in the second half of that game to drive the basketball, and they did a great job of it. And they also did a decent job of attacking us in transition."
Staying in front of the ball will be paramount for the Bulldogs, who are coming off a victory over Wyoming that snapped a five-game losing streak. That has not been a strong point for Fresno State and its guards, but the Bulldogs made use of their extra practice time last weekend, with no game on Saturday.
"Getting back on defense is going to be No. 1 for us. No. 2 we have to get back and really try to stay in front of the ball. They drive, you're going to have to guard without fouling, playing one-on-one defense," Terry said.
"They're a good team, now. Really, right now, they've dropped the last two (69-58 at Boise State and 69-56 in overtime at Nevada), but very easily could have won both ball games. They can go on runs -- they were down 15 at Nevada and five minutes into the second half were down one and really took control of the game and should have won that game."
Coggins expected back for Air Force
Air Force guard Tre Coggins, who is leading the team with 17.4 points per game, is expected back in the lineup after missing the past two games because of disciplinary reasons.
Coggins, an Air Force spokesman said, was back in practice with the team Monday.
The 6-foot-2 sophomore led the Falcons with 21 points when they played at Fresno State, 18 of them coming in the second half when he hit 5 of 6 shots including 3 of 3 on 3-pointers.
"It obviously gives them a guy that can handle the basketball and initiate their offense," Terry said. "But they weren't too shabby without him. Their system still worked pretty well. He gives them another shot-maker ... another guy that can make shots. They have good drivers and they've got guys that can put a lot of pressure on the basket. But he gives them another shot-maker."
- Fresno State has won back to back Mountain West games only once -- the Bulldogs beat the Falcons and won at UNLV to end last season.
- Air Force has had an assist on 60.1% of its baskets, the third highest percentage in the conference. Utah State leads at 67.3% and New Mexico is second at 60.5%. Fresno State is seventh at 52.7%, which is a significant improvement from 2012-'13 when the Bulldogs were last at 44.5%.
- Senior Tyler Johnson has scored 20 or more points in six of the past eight games for the Bulldogs. He had 25 in the first game against the Falcons, tying a season high. He also had 25 in a loss at Pacific.
- Wednesday: 6 p.m. in Colorado Springs
- Records: Bulldogs 9-13, 2-7; Falcons 9-11, 3-6
- Webcast: www.themw.com
- Radio: KFIG (AM 940)
- Series: Fresno State leads 11-5
- Bulldogs: Fresno State can win back-to-back Mountain West games for second time in its two years in the league and complete first season sweep of Air Force since 1996. Bulldogs held Falcons to 5-of-25 first-half shooting in 71-65 win Jan. 8 at the Save Mart Center.
- Falcons: Entered first-round game 2-0 in conference but have won one game since, over 0-10 San Jose State. Will throw their MW fourth-ranked 3-point defense (.331) vs. Bulldogs' No. 3 shooting from distance (.369).
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