Air Force's Stifling Defense Stops BYU, 70-39
By EDDIE PELLS AP Sports Writer
AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. (AP) - For more than 10 1/2 strange and painful minutes, the string of futility played out. Layups, 3-pointers, free throws - Brigham Young couldn't get anything to drop.
The result was a 19-0 deficit on the way to a 70-39 loss to Air Force on Monday night, an unmistakable low point to a season that has been full of them for the struggling Cougars.
Antoine Hood scored 14 points to help the Falcons (16-10, 7-4 Mountain West) recover in a big way, two days after they had their 24-game home winning streak snapped by Utah.
The Cougars (9-18, 3-9) are from the same state as the 12th-ranked Utes, but that's pretty much all those teams have in common this season.
Fielding a young lineup missing two regulars, coach Steve Cleveland tried almost every combination during the scoreless string, which lasted 10 minutes, 40 seconds, to be exact.
Substitutes came in, then sat back down. Two media timeouts passed, along with two more called by BYU.
About midway through the drought, Brock Reichner picked up the ball around midcourt and had an unimpeded path to the basket. Air Force's Caleb Buchanan caught up, though, and blocked the shot, marking BYU's ninth straight miss to start the game.
By the time they finally scored, the Cougars had attempted 10 shots, had four of them blocked, gone 0-for-2 from the free-throw line, committed four turnovers and had the ball stolen three times.
It was Austin Ainge - the son of former Cougars star Danny Ainge - who put a merciful end to the ugliness, hitting a shot from three feet behind the top of the 3-point arc to make the score 19-3.
More than six minutes later, with the crowd at Clune Arena shouting ``double digits,'' Chris Miles finally got the Cougars there by making a layup.
By halftime, it was 37-13. The 13 points were the least Air Force had ever allowed in a half in conference play, and surpassed BYU's all-time record for scoring futility in a half (1980 and 1982 against Wyoming - before the shot-clock came to college hoops) by just one point.
Not that Air Force felt bad about any of this.
For decades, the Falcons had been doormats to BYU and pretty much everyone else in the MWC, and the Western Athletic Conference before that.
The program has surged the last two seasons and the Falcons made their first appearance in the NCAA tournament in 42 years last season.
But without winning the conference tournament next month, a repeat this season seems unlikely, especially after last weekend's loss to Utah, which Air Force dearly needed to increase its RPI ranking of 104.
This win did guarantee the Falcons of a second straight winning record, though - a feat not accomplished since 1975-76 - and kept the 20-win mark within reach.
Dan Nwaelele scored 11 points and Nick Welch had 10, as coach Chris Mooney cleared his entire bench, playing 17 players.
Joshua Burgess had nine points to lead BYU, which uncharacteristically got blown out. This was only the second of 12 conference games this season in which the Cougars haven't led or been tied at some point in the second half.