REBELS BASKETBALL:

Air Force does what it does best: Slow down UNLV

Despite 22 straight Mountain West losses, Falcons again bother Rebels

Air Force vs UNLV

UNLV managed to overcome both a sluggish offense and a Derrick Jasper knee injury in the first half to beat Air Force 60-50 Tuesday night.

UNLV-Air Force Basketball

Brice Massamba lays it in for two of his six first half point as UNLV takes on Air Force at the Thomas & Mack Tuesday. Launch slideshow »

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The Rebel Room

AIR FORCE POSTGAME: Jasper goes down, Kendall rises up

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Ryan Greene and Ray Brewer discuss UNLV's 60-50 triumph over Air Force on Tuesday night at the Mack. Kendall Wallace helped get the Rebels going in the second half, while Derrick Jasper hurting his left knee was the hot topic of the night. The guys take a look at who could emerge if the UNLV junior misses any extended period of time.

The Air Force basketball team on Tuesday night didn’t play like a squad that hasn’t won a Mountain West Conference game since 2008.

After all, the Falcons seemingly always save their best for UNLV.

Air Force’s clock-controlling offense gave the host Rebels fits in the first half, but the 19-point underdog Falcons couldn’t sustain the early momentum in dropping their 22nd straight league game, 60-50.

But for an Air Force team hindered by injuries to several key players all season, the performance gives them much-needed confidence for the final six weeks of play.

If Air Force (8-11, 0-6) can give UNLV, one of the league’s top teams, a challenge in its own arena, it will certainly be more competitive down the stretch.

“We know we can compete with any team in the league,” said Grant Parker, who led Air Force with 11 points in 31 minutes. “We still haven’t been able to put a full game together. That was the problem tonight. We played good defense in the first half, but let them back in (the game) in the second half.”

The valiant effort by Air Force resembled its 46-43 loss to UNLV last March at the Thomas & Mack Center. The 46 points by UNLV was the second lowest total scored in a victory in school history.

Air Force led by as many as nine points in the first half Tuesday, limiting UNLV to 0-of-6 shooting on 3-pointers and taking care of the ball. UNLV only had four steals, two in each half.

Tom Fow connected on a trio of 3-pointers in the first half to help Air Force play arguably its best 20 minutes of basketball this season.

“We competed but that is still not satisfactory,” Air Force coach Jeff Reynolds said. “We have to be better defensively. That lost the game for us tonight.”

Air Force led by nine points with 3:22 to play in the first half, but UNLV trimmed its deficit to three, 24-21, by halftime. The Rebels (17-4, 5-2) opened the second half on a 10-3 run and never looked back.

Kendall Wallace hit four 3-pointers in the second half for UNLV, and Air Force’s grind-it-out style of attack provided to be problematic in erasing the deficit.

“Wallace hit some big (3-pointers) and that hurt us,” Parker said. “If we could have played defense in the second half like we did in the first half, things would have been different.”

Reynolds said the Falcons’ slow and deliberate offense that was on display isn’t necessarily by design. Rather, he credits UNLV’s defense for forcing the shot clock to drain to less than 10 seconds on several possessions.

Reynolds said he even pulled forward Taylor Broekhuis from the lineup for passing up a shot on an open look.

“A lot of people who watched that game tonight would have thought we were holding the basketball,” Reynolds said. “But we weren’t trying to run down the clock. They were just playing good defense.”

Air Force trailed 44-34 with 9:48 remaining and could have easily given up. But to the Falcons’ credit, they scored six quick points in trimming their deficit to four.

It was moments like these that give the Falcons momentum. Early in the season, with injuries taking their toll, they might have not put up as much of a fight.

“At times tonight, I thought we were as good as we’ve been all year,” Reynolds said.

Fow and Parker each had 11 points to lead Air Force. Evan Washington had nine points, and Todd Fletcher had six points and four assists.

Ray Brewer can be reached at [email protected] [email protected]> or 990-2662.

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  1. I agree Lenny. It was probably one of the most boring games I have ever been to. THe entire first half, I think every single play they had came down to 5 seconds or below on the shot clock. The second half, they got in trouble though because of shot clock violations. Very slow game.

  2. Air Force needs to be a little more realistic. They were not playing superb defense. Rebels were missing wide open shots. If they had a hand up in their faces, then yes, that's good defense. Our guys had open looks and weren't hitting them. It was a 1st half shooting slump by the Rebels. AF made a few good steals, but c'mon man

  3. They have played that way for at least the past two-three seasons - that's their coaches style, though he is in the hot seat now - took them long enough after 22 straight losses in conference!

  4. Imagine if there wasn't a shot clock...

    And the final score AF 7 UNLV 2

  5. ATHLETES OF THE WEEK

    MALE
    Shabazz Muhammad, Bishop Gorman
    The sophomore swingman had 29 points, including the go-ahead basket with about a minute to play in an 82-79 win over Colony (Calif.).