Air Force Takes on BYU in Provo

    Freshman Nick Welch scored a career-high six points against Utah on Saturday
    Freshman Nick Welch scored a career-high six points against Utah on Saturday

    Feb. 2, 2003

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    Site: Marriott Center (22,700), Provo, Utah

    Television: None

    Radio: KVOR AM 740 in Colorado Springs

    Records: Air Force is 10-8 overall and 1-4 in the MWC. BYU is 14-5 overall and 3-1 in the MWC.

    Coaches: Air Force is coached by Joe Scott (Princeton, 1987), who is in his third season with the Falcons. He has a 27-48 record in his tenure at Air Force. Scott came to AFA from his alma mater, Princeton, where he was an assistant coach from 1993-2000.

    Brigham Young is coached by Steve Cleveland (UC Irvine, 1976), who is in his sixth season as head coach of the Cougars. Prior to taking the BYU coaching job, he was the head coach at Fresno City College for seven seasons. Cleveland has a record of 99-74 at BYU.

    Series: BYU leads the overall series, 39-8. The teams split a pair of games last season. Air Force beat the Cougars, 74-64, at Clune Arena, while BYU triumphed, 67-51, in Provo. Brigham Young has won seven of the last 10 games in the series.

    Scouting BYU
    BYU is 14-5 overall and 3-1 in Mountain West Conference play after defeating New Mexico, 80-64, in Provo on Saturday. BYU's 44-game home winning streak, which was the longest in the country, was snapped by Utah, 79-75, on Saturday, Jan. 25. The Cougars started the conference season with victories over UNLV (85-77) and San Diego State (80-69) Travis Hansen led BYU with 17 points against Utah, including 7-for-11 from the field. Mark Bigelow chipped in with 18 points while Jared Jensen had 15 points. All three players had five rebounds, one less than Rafael Araujo. Hansen leads the team in scoring, each averaging 15.9 points per game. Bigelow follows at 13.6 points per game and Araujo is the team's top rebounder, averaging 8.9 per contest. Hansen is the team's assist leader with 53, while Araujo's 27 steals in a team-high. BYU finished tied for fourth in the MWC last season, and lost to eventual MWC champion San Diego State. The Cougars defeated UC Irvine in the first round of the NIT before falling NIT champion Memphis in the second round.

    Need a Win on the Road
    Air Force enters its game at BYU on Monday with a 23-game road losing streak against Mountain West Conference opponents. The Falcons won their first-ever MWC road game, 81-77 in three overtimes at San Diego State on Jan. 20, 2000, and have not won a conference game away from home since. AFA is 0-3 on the road this season, losing at Colorado State (51-49), Wyoming (46-44) and Utah (45-35).

    Tops in NCAA Stats
    The Falcons are currently ranked No. 1 in the country in scoring defense, allowing just 53.5 points per game. Air Force is in the top 10 in the country for the following categories:

    Category -- # -- Rank
    Scoring Defense -- 53.5 -- 1st
    Turnovers per game -- 11.4 -- 5th
    Three-point percentage -- 40.8 -- T, 8th
    Three-pointers made per game -- 9.0 -- T, 9th

    60 Points is the Key
    The 60-point mark seems to be important for the Falcons this season. Air Force is 7-0 when it reaches the 60-point plateau, and 3-8 when it scores less than 60. The only victories this season with a point total under 60 are the 57-52 win at Arkansas State, and home wins over Navy (56-43) and Savannah State (56-33). Defensively, the Falcons are 8-3 when allowing less than 60 points to an opponent, and 2-5 when their opponent scores more than 60. CSU (51-49), Wyoming (46-44) and Utah (45-35) are the only teams to beat AFA when scoring less than 60 points.

    Three-Point Streak
    Air Force has now made a 3-point shot in 315 consecutive games. The last time the Falcons failed to make a three-pointer was Dec. 4, 1991 in a 57-51 victory over Adams State College.

    What's next
    The Falcons continue MWC play on the road with a game against New Mexico on Saturday, Feb. 8 in Albuquerque, NM. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.

    Highest Computer Rankings Ever
    AFA's RPI ranking of 139 on Monday, Jan. 27 is the highest ever for a Falcon team. The team's highest mark in the Sagarin Ratings this season was 70th on Dec. 16.

    Three's Company
    Air Force is currently tied for ninth in the nation in three-pointers made per game after spending most of the season in the top two. AFA is sinking 9.0 long range shots each contest. AFA's 66.7 percent (16-24) against Ga. Southern on Jan. 1 was a season-high and the best percentage since shooting 69.2 percent from long range against Montana State on Nov. 30, 2001. AFA is making 41.7 percent (160-384) of its shots from beyond the line. Individually, Air Force has three of the top 10 3-point percentage shooters in the MWC. Tim Keller is fourth at 45.5 percent (55-of-121), while Joel Gerlach is seventh at 43.3 percent (29-of-67). A.J. Kuhle is eighth at 42.6 percent (26-of-61).

    Big Monday Matchup At Home
    For the first time since Feb. 1, 1992, Air Force will host a nationally televised game when ESPN shows the AFA-Wyoming game on Monday, Feb. 17 as part of its "Big Monday" tripleheader. Tip-off is scheduled for 10:00 p.m. MST. The Falcons have three other games on television this season, two on SportsWest (March 1 vs. BYU and March 8 vs. New Mexico) and one on ESPN-Plus (Feb. 15 vs. Colorado State).

    Keller Shooting
    Tim Keller is among the best shooters in the country, as evidenced by the latest NCAA statistics (Jan. 27). Keller was 13th in the nation in three-point percentage (47.0) and his 3.2 three-pointers made per game was No. 21 in the nation. He was held without a three-pointer for the first time this season at Ut ah.

    Bellairs Fifth Player to 800 / 600
    Tom Bellairs became the fifth player in school history to record 800 points and 600 rebounds in a career after scoring five points against Oakland. He has 867 points and 658 rebounds in 98 career games. Bellairs moved into the No. 4 spot on the school's all-time rebounding list this season and is 26th on the school's scoring chart. Bellairs is No. 3 on the MWC's all-time rebounding list, behind Josh Davis (795), who played at Wyoming, and UNLV senior Dalron Johnson (757).

    New Long Range Records
    Air Force set a new school and Mountain West Conference record with 18 three-pointers against UT-Pan American on Dec. 5. The previous school record was 16 made against Doane College on Nov. 22, 1997. The previous MWC record of 17 was shared by Utah and Colorado State. The 18 three-pointers ties for the third-most in one game for Division I this season. The Falcons are also tied for No. 7 (16 vs. Georgia Southern) and No. 14 (15 vs. Stetson) on the list for most three-pointers made in one game this season. Air Force is the only team in the country that appears three times in the top 25 for this category.

    Last Time Out
    Utah 45, Air Force 35
    Feb. 1, 2003 at Salt Lake City

    Marc Jackson scored 12 points and Utah held Air Force scoreless for more than five minutes down the stretch to beat the Falcons 45-35 Saturday night. Utah (15-4, 3-1 Mountain West Conference) led through most of the defensive struggle, but Air Force (10-8, 1-3) scored six consecutive points capped by Tom Bellairs' 3-pointers for a 33-31 lead with 5:36 to play. But the Utes kept the Falcons scoreless for the next 5:29 while scoring 12 straight points to win for the 10th time in their last 11 games. Utah's Nick Jacobson scored eight of his 10 points in the game-clinching surge, going five of six at the line and adding a 3-pointer. Jackson made both his 3-point attempts and converted all four of his free throws. Tim Keller had nine points and Bellairs added eight for Air Force, which has dropped four of its last five and is 1-13 against the Utes in recent years. The Falcons couldn't overcome 41 percent free throw shooting (7-for-17) and were outrebounded 36-20. The Falcons came in leading the MWC in 3-point percentage (.417) but shot just 2 of 13 from beyond the arc.

    Notes from the Utah Game
    -- Nick Welch posted career-highs of six points, three steals and 17 minutes
    -- Tim Keller did not make a three-pointer for the first time this season
    -- Keller had his nine-game double figure point streak snapped
    -- Vernard Jenkins tied his season-high with 38 minutes
    -- Jenkins had a season-high four steals
    -- Joel Gerlach tied his season-low of two points
    -- Gerlach attempted a season-low three FGs

    -- Air Force's 35 points are the fewest in one game since a 59-29 loss to Wyoming on Jan. 20, 1982
    -- The team's 13 points in the first half are the fewest in one half since scoring 13 against Fresno State on Nov. 28, 1980
    -- No player scored in double figures for the first time this season
    -- Air Force has allowed just 47.1 points in its three MWC road losses

    Close Calls
    Air Force has had its share of close games since Joe Scott took over as head coach prior to the 2000-01 campaign, especially on the road. Of the Falcons' 17 road losses against conference opponents the last 2+ seasons, 11 of them have been by eight points or less, including six by five points or less. Including the losses at Colorado State and Wyoming two weekends ago, three of the Falcons' last four road conference losses have been by two points. Four of the last five games against MWC teams away from Clune Arena have been decided by two points counting the MWC Tournament game against Wyoming.

    Jenkins Climbing Career Lists
    Senior guard Vernard Jenkins has moved into the top five on two of the school's career lists. He is fourth on the school's all-time assist list with 318 career assists, and No. 4 on the school's list for career steals. He has 137 steals in his career. Jenkins is the Mountain West Conference's all-time leader in steals, and is third all-time in assists, behind Matt Montague (439) and Marlon Parmer (384), who played at BYU and New Mexico, respectively.

    AFA in Conference Statistics
    Several Air Force players are among the top 10 for Mountain West Conference statistical leaders as of Sunday, Feb. 2.

    Tim Keller
    #2 -- three-pointers made per game, 3.06
    #2 -- steals per game, 1.78
    #4 -- three-point field goal percentage, 45.5
    #9 -- points per game, 14.6

    Joel Gerlach
    #5 -- blocked shots per game, 1.22
    #7 -- three-point field goal percentage, 43.3
    #8 - free-throw percentage, 73.9
    #9 -- field goal percentage, 51.4
    #9 -- three-pointers made per game, 1.61

    A.J. Kuhle
    #7 -- field goal percentage, 52.4
    #8 -- three-point field goal percentage, 42.6
    #10 -- assists per game, 2.83

    Tom Bellairs
    #1 -- assist/turnover ratio, 1.81
    #7 -- assists per game, 3.11

    Vernard Jenkins
    #9 -- assists per game, 2.94

    Gerlach's FIrst Double-Double
    Junior Joel Gerlach posted his first career double-double with 18 points and a career-high 10 rebounds against UNLV. It marked the first double-double for any Falcon this season. Senior Tom Bellairs has 12 career double-doubles, which ties Brian Greene of Colorado State for the third-most by any active MWC player.

    Home Sweet Home...
    Air Force is 7-1 at home against Division I opponents for the first time in program history. Also, the team's six-game home winning streak to start the season marked the first time in school history AFA won its first six Division I home games. The Falcons won those six home games by an average of 22.2 points. For the first time in 30 years, Air Force won each of its first two home games by more than 20 points. The 29-point victory over Stetson on Nov. 26 was followed up with a 21-point win over UT-Pan American on Dec. 5. The last time that happened was at the start of the 1972-73 campaign, when the Falcons beat Tulane, 81-59, and Colorado State, 78-57.

    ...Road Sweet Road?
    With the victory at UTEP on Dec. 28, Air Force has won three true road games in the same season for the first time since the 1997-98 campaign. Prior to this season, the Falcons had not won three Division I road games in a season since 1988-89, when AFA won consecutive games at Wyoming, Utah and Brigham Young.

    Most Non-Conference Victories
    With its victory over Savannah State on Jan. 6, the Falcons set a new program-record for the most non-conference wins in one season with nine. The 1988-89 Air Force team won eight games prior to starting conference play, with four of those being non-Division I teams, while the 1982-83 and 1998-99 squads each won seven non-conference games. In each of those seasons, three of the wins were against non-Division I schools.

    A Thin Bench
    Air Force's starters scored all 44 points against Wyoming on Jan. 20. In fact, only four Falcons scored as Vernard Jenkins was held scoreless. It marked the only time this season that none of Air Force's subs scored.



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