Air Force vs. Fresno State: Game Preview
Either team happy for a win tonight in the Save Mart Center.
The Falcons travel out west for a midweek showdown with the Bulldogs.
WHO: Air Force Falcons (10-16, 4-10 Mountain West) At Fresno State Bulldogs (9-17, 5-10 Mountain West)
WHEN: Wednesday, February 19th—7:00 PM PST/8:00 PM MST/9:00 PM EST
WHERE: Save Mart Center, Fresno, CA
SERIES RECORD: Fresno State leads all-time series 21-7
The Bulldogs host the Falcons on Wednesday night for their second straight game at home before heading out on the road for one game in Reno and then calling it a regular season on February 29th back in the Save Mart Center. Justin Hutson’s team is looking for a win tonight after a loss to Utah State over the weekend while Air Force is playing for a chance at their first win streak since back in mid-December.
Both teams bring in a weird mix of talented young players and impactful veteran leaders. This combination would normally lead to a competitive season, but a lack of consistency on both sides have these teams in the bottom half of the conference standings and well below .500 in mid-February.
The last time these two faced off back on January 28th back in Colorado Springs, the Bulldogs got the best of the Falcons who boast one of the better records at home (7-6) in the conference, 79-68. The senior duo of Nate Grimes and New Williams was in control back then, combining for over half of their teams overall points with 46 at the end of the night.
The Falcons leading scorers were kept in check by Fresno State’s defense last time around as well. And Air Force has trouble when their bigs are having trouble. This group needs to stretch out the defense by knocking down shots, hopefully freeing up some space for their guys down low. The Falcons look a bit out of sorts when Swan starts taking three point shots. He can make them from time to time, but when the Falcons are getting easy two-point opportunities with the occasional one from deep to keep things interesting, that’s when they nearly break triple-digit scoring.
Both teams know whats at stake in the remaining games in conference play, and that’s conference tournament field position. The Falcons and Bulldogs are both in the lower half of the Mountain West standings and should be competing for a possible 6th place finish at the end of the month. That would set either team up for a first round tournament showdown against Wyoming, who both teams have beaten this season already and would provide their best shot at advancing past the first round.
Match up of the night: Youth vs. Experience
The Stats: Scottie (15.6 PPG 5.6 RPG & 2.0 APG) & Robinson (12.8 PPG 7.0 RPG & 1.6 APG)
Tonight’s match up to keep an eye on is between freshman forward Orlando Robinson of Fresno State and elder statesmen Lavelle Scottie of the United States Air Force Academy. Both are in very different places in their basketball careers but will be extremely impactful in tonight’s game in Fresno.
Scottie who is nearing the end of his collegiate career is playing great basketball in the month of February but isn’t getting much help from his teammates. The senior forward is averaging 18.2 PPG and 6.7 RPG over his last four games. And his experience could give him the edge tonight against one of the more talented but younger teams in the Mountain West.
Robinson who has a tremendous amount of potential and will be one of the faces of the league in years to come. But has a battle to win down low tonight, and his length and mid range shooting should give him an advantage.
Prediction: Fresno State 72, Air Force 68
The Falcons are coming off of a nine-point win over San Jose State at home this past Saturday where they almost hit the triple digit mark (95-86), with four players scoring ten points or better. While Fresno State struggled shooting the ball against second place Utah State squad on Saturday in their 12-point loss to the Aggies.
This game will come down to which teams knocks down the most buckets (as most should) as both have struggled in the month of February with a melting pot of top scorers each, which makes it hard to nail down which player will have the biggest impact in tonight’s game.
The X-Factor: Chris Joyce
If the sharpshooter is knocking them down, it will be a long night guarding the perimeter.