Dec. 18, 2003
Complete Release in PDF Format
Download Free Acrobat Reader
Clune Arena (5,939), USAFA, Colo.
KVOR AM 740 in Colorado Springs
Air Force is 3-2. Charleston Southern is 2-5.
Air Force snapped its two-game losing streak with a 56-53 victory over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on the road on Tuesday, Dec. 9. The Falcons fell to Belmont, 46-38, in Nashville on Nov. 30 and at Auburn, 68-49, on Dec. 7. Charleston Southern has lost two games in a row, falling at Wofford, 79-73, in overtime on Dec. 13 and losing 71-36 at South Carolina on Wednesday, Dec. 17.
Air Force is coached by Joe Scott (Princeton, 1987), who is in his fourth season with the Falcons. He has a 32-58 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.
Charleston Southern is coached by Jim Platt (Concordia, 1973), who is in his fourth season with the Buccaneers. He has a 38-54 record at the school, and a career Division I record of 97-113 in his eighth season. Platt was the head coach at Arkansas-Little Rock from 1990-94 and has been an assistant at Illinois State, DePaul, Tulsa and Florida State.
This is the first meeting between the two schools.
This season marks the 48th year of varsity basketball for Air Force. This is Air Force's fifth season in the Mountain West Conference. AFA was a member of the Western Athletic Conference for 19 years before joining the MWC in 1999.
Nine Tourney Teams on Schedule
Nine of Air Force's 20 opponents received a bid to either the NCAA or NIT Tournament last season. Three Mountain West Conference teams made the NCAA field of 65, while three others played in the NIT. Here is a breakdown of this year's opponents in the 2002-03 tournaments.
NCAA -- Auburn, BYU, California, Colorado State, Utah, Wisc.-Milwaukee
NIT -- San Diego State, UNLV, Wyoming
Last Time Out
Air Force 56, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 53
Dec. 9, 2003 at Corpus Christi, Texas
Tim Keller scored 15 of his game-high 18 points in the second half and Air Force survived a couple of second-half rallies as the Falcons hung on to defeat Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, 56-53, at Memorial Coliseum.
Keller hit three of his four 3-pointers in the second half and made four-of-five free throws in the final minute. His one miss, which broke a streak of 26 in a row, was the front end of a one-and-one with eight seconds left and the Islanders' Thomas Bailey missed a three-pointer at the buzzer that would have tied the game.
Keller scored eight of the Falcons' first 13 points in the second half and gave Air Force a 40-35 lead with a three-pointer with 8:25 remaining in the game. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (3-3), which trailed by 18 early in the game, cut the Falcon lead to one, 40-39, but never took the lead in the second stanza.
Two free throws by Keller with 32 seconds left put Air Force ahead 54-47, but Aaron White of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi knocked down a three-pointer with 17 seconds remaining. Keller hit two more free throws after being fouled on the inbounds pass, but White responded with another trey, cutting the Falcon lead to 56-53, and the Islanders again fouled Keller quickly.
Air Force (3-2) played an outstanding first half. After giving up the first basket just five seconds into the game, the Falcons hit three consecutive 3-pointers by Antoine Hood, A.J. Kuhle and Joel Gerlach to take a 9-2 lead. The Islanders cut the lead to 9-4 only to have the Falcons score the next 13 points by five different players for a 22-4 advantage.
Three baskets by Thomas Bailey cut the Falcons lead to 24-13, but a three-pointer by Kuhle put Air Force back up by 14 at 27-13. Kuhle hit three treys in the first half. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi scored the last four points of the half give Air Force a 27-17 lead at the break. Air Force once again played outstanding defense in the first half, forcing nine turnovers and holding the Islanders to their lowest point total in one half in the five-year history of the program.
Notes from the TX A&M-CC Game
-- Junior Tim Keller scored a season-high 18 points and made a team season-high four 3-pointers
-- Keller set a new school record with his 26th consecutive made free throw
-- Senior Joel Gerlach played a season-high 29 minutes
-- Senior A.J. Kuhle scored a season-high 11 points
-- Sophomore Antoine Hood pulled down a season-best four rebounds and tied his season-high with 33 minutes
-- Freshman Jacob Burtschi tied his career-high with two assists
-- Sophomore Nick Welch had a season-high four rebounds
-- It is the closest road victory since defeating Northern Arizona, 57-56, on Jan. 2, 2002
-- Air Force had five players with two assists
-- AFA made fewer field goals than its opponent for the third consecutive game
Keller Preseason All-MWC
Tim Keller was selected to the preseason All-Mountain West Conference team at the league's media day in Denver, Colo.
The Austin, Texas product earned third-team All-MWC honors last season after averaging 14.8 points per game. He led the MWC in three-point percentage (41.3 percent) and was second in the league in free throw percentage (conference games only) at 87.3 percent.
Keller became the second Air Force player to earn an All-MWC selection, as Jarvis Croff was a second-team pick in 2000.
2003-04 Preseason All-MWC
Tim Keller, Jr., G, Air Force
Rafael Araujo, Sr., C, BYU
Mark Bigelow, Sr., F, BYU
Matt Nelson, Jr., C, Colorado State
Tim Frost, Sr., F, Utah
Nick Jacobson, Sr., G, Utah
Air Force has now made a 3-point shot in 330 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.
Joe Scott's freshmen have been very impressive so far this season. Dan Nwaelele poured in a team-high 18 points in Air Force's 86-46 blowout of Navy, while Jacob Burtschi tied for the team lead with a career-high 11 against Auburn.
Another freshman, Matt McCraw, tied his career-high with 12 minutes of action against Auburn.
Balanced Scoring So Far
Air Force has scored 146 points in each half so far this season. The Falcons, who have led at halftime in four of their five games, have outscored their opponents 146-91 in the first half. In fact, Air Force has held its opponent to less than 25 points in the first half in each game this season.
The second half is a different story, however, as the Falcons have outscored by their opponents by a 162-146 advantage.
Keller Outstanding at the Line
Tim Keller is No. 3 on Air Force's career free throw percentage list. He made 83.5 percent (81-97) of his free throws last season, the seventh-best mark for one season in school history, and has made 83.7 percent (123-147) in 61 games as a Falcon. He set a new school record with 26 consecutive free throws made before missing late in the game against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.
Following is the list of the top free throw shooters in Air Force history:
# Name, Years, Pct. (FTM-FTA)
1. Lamoni Yazzie, 1999-2002, 87.0 (161-185)
2. Dan Kraft, 1972-75 ,84.1 (116-138)
3. Tim Keller, 2001-present, 83.7 (123-147)
4. Dale French, 1987-90, 91-92, 81.7 (236-289)
5. Charles Smith, 1988-92, 80.9 (131-162)
6. John Judd, 1961-64, 80.2 (239-298)
7. Maurice McDonald, 1982-86, 80.1 (177-221)
8. Chris Lowry, 1987-91, 79.4 (235-296)
9. Chris Loll, 1992-95, 79.1 (265-335)
10. Tom Blase, 1970-73, 78.9 (116-147)
No. 1 in Scoring Defense
The Falcons are well on their way to a second consecutive national title for scoring defense as Air Force is allowing just 50.6 points per game, currently No. 1 in the country. AFA is in the top 10 nationally in the following categories:
Category, #, Rank
Scoring Defense, 50.6, 1st
Turnovers per game, 12.0, 8th
Three-pointers made/game, 9.6, 9th
Free-throw percentage, 77.9, 9th
The Falcons travel to Berkeley, Calif., for the Office Depot Golden Bear Classic beginning Saturday, Dec. 27. Air Force plays Prairie View A&M in the first round at 5 p.m. (PT) on the 27th. Host California plays Columbia in the other first-round game. The consolation and championship games are on Sunday, Dec. 28 at 5 and 7:30 p.m. (PT).
Welch Among MWC Leaders
Sophomore center Nick Welch is second in the Mountain West Conference in field-goal percentage and is tied for the lead in three-point percentage.
Welch, who sat out the season opener against Arkansas-Pine Bluff while still recovering from knee surgery in August, has made 65.2 percent of his shots from the field (15-of-23) and is shooting 62.5 percent from three-point range (5-of-8).
The sophomore from Fort Worth, Texas also ranks 10th in the conference in steals and blocks.
Record Setting Victory Over Navy
Air Force's 86-46 victory over Navy in Annapolis, Md., on Nov. 30 is the largest margin in a road game against a Division I team in the 48-year history of Air Force basketball.
In fact, it doubled the previous record, which was a 20-point win at Fresno State (71-51) on Jan. 23, 1993.
Air Force's largest margin of victory in any road game is 44 in a 91-47 rout of Division II Western State College in Gunnison, Colo., on Feb. 23, 1976.
Youngsters Are Scoring
A junior and two sophomores top the scoring chart for Air Force this season. Junior Tim Keller leads the team, averaging 10.4 points per game, followed by sophs Antoine Hood (9.4 ppg) and Nick Welch (9.3).
Actually, six of the team's top seven scorers are underclassmen. Senior Joel Gerlach is fourth at 9.0 ppg, then come freshmen Dan Nwaelele (5.2), Jacob Burtschi (5.0) and Matt McCraw (4.8).
Who Wants to be The Millionth
Air Force is closing in on the one-million attendance mark at home. Entering Saturday's game against Charleston Southern, 995,518 fans have attended home games in the 48-year history of Air Force men's basketball.
Gerlach Closing in on Top 25
Senior Joel Gerlach needs just one point to become the 26th player in school history to score 900 career points. With 899 career points, he needs six points to pass Erwin Washington ('79-83) and move into the top 25 on AFA's career scoring list.
Junior Tim Keller passed the 600-point mark against Auburn and is 47th all-time with 621 points.
The list of Air Force's top career scorers follows:
# Name, Years, Pts., Avg.
1. Raymond Dudley, 1986-90, 2,178, 20.0
2. Otis Jones, 1991-95, 2,003, 18.2
3. Tim Harris, 1977-81, 1,550, 15.7
4. Bob Beckel, 1956-59, 1,526, 22.8
5. Jarmica Reese, 1994-98, 1,385, 13.3
6. Cliff Parsons, 1966-69, 1,374, 19.4
7. Rick Simmons, 1979-83, 1,320, 12.7
8. Jarvis Croff, 1998-01, 1,216, 14.8
9. Tom Schneeberger, 1974-78, 1,204, 11.9
10. Maurice McDonald, 1982-86, 1,121, 11.0
24. Tom Bellairs, 1999-2003, 914, 8.5
25. Erwin Washington, 1979-83, 904, 8.5
26. Joel Gerlach, 2000-present, 899, 10.7
Early Conference Stats
A number of Air Force players are among the Mountain West Conference statistical leaders as of Wednesday, Dec. 18.
#1 in free-throw percentage, 92.3
#3 in three-pointers made per game, 2.40
#1(tie) in three-point percentage, 62.5
#2 in field-goal percentage, 65.2
#9 in steals per game, 1.25
#10 in blocks per game, 0.75
#3 in free-throw percentage, 86.7
#7 in steals per game, 1.40
#10 in assists per game, 2.60
Also, Air Force leads all MWC teams in:
Scoring Defense, 50.6
Free-Throw Percentage, 77.9 percent
Three-Pointers Made/Game, 9.60
Turnover Margin, +3.40
Assist/Turnover Ratio, 1.08
Moving Up The Computer Rankings
The Falcons have been moving their way up the computer rankings this season. As of Dec. 16, Air Force was ranked No. 129 in the Sagarin rankings and No. 177 in the RPI rankings, according to RPIRankings.com.
Air Force's highest spot ever in the Sagarin rankings was No. 70 exactly one year ago on Dec. 16, 2002. The Falcons finished the 2002-03 campaign at No. 149.
Air Force's RPI ranking of 135, on Sunday, Feb. 2, 2003 was the highest ever for a Falcon team. The team's final ranking of 158 last season was the best for an Air Force team at the end of a season in the 10 years that the college RPI has existed.
Free Throw Shooting Improvement
The Falcons are currently leading the Mountain West Conference in free-throw percentage, shooting 77.9 percent (60-of-77) from the line. That is a drastic improvement from last season when Air Force finished the season at 65.1 percent (312-479), last in the league.
If the Falcons keep shooting at this rate, they are on pace to set a single-season record for free-throw percentage.
The top 10 single-season free-throw percentages in school history follow:
# Pct., FTM-FTA, Season
1. 77.0, 483-627, 1990-91
2. 74.8, 448-599, 1991-92
2. 74.8, 457-611, 1989-90
4. 73.2, 340-468, 1962-63
5. 72.4, 498-689, 1969-70
6. 71.2, 331-465, 2001-02
7. 70.2, 414-590, 1988-89
8. 70.0, 409-584, 1992-93
9. 69.8, 466-668, 1965-66
10. 69.7, 411-590, 1959-60
10. 69.7, 334-479, 2000-01
Home Sweet Home, Finally
Air Force plays its second home game of the season this Saturday, nearly one month after opening the season on Nov. 22 with a 63-40 victory over Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
The Falcons' recent four-game road swing was the longest since the 1994-95 season when Air Force played six consecutive games away from Clune Arena. That swing included two neutral-site games at the Cessna Classic in Wichita, Kansas, and AFA lost all six games.
The last time Air Force played four consecutive road games and came home with two victories was during the 1986-87 campaign, winning at Western Athletic Conference foes Hawaii and San Diego State. The trip concluded with losses at Wyoming and Colorado State.
Air Force hopes the success away from home continues into conference play as the Falcons enter the 2003-04 campaign with a 27-game road losing streak against Mountain West Conference opponents.
Air Force won its first-ever MWC road game, 81-77 in three overtimes, at San Diego State on Jan. 20, 2000, and has not won a conference game away from home since.
Big Monday Matchup
For the third consecutive year, Air Force will showcase its program on national television. The Falcons will travel to Las Vegas to face UNLV on Monday, Feb. 2, as part of ESPN's "Big Monday" tripleheader. The game begins at 10 p.m. (MT).
Air Force hosted Wyoming on "Big Monday" last season and played at New Mexico during the 2001-02 campaign as part of the tripleheader.
Four other Air Force games will be on television this season:
Saturday, Jan. 24 vs. BYU
Monday, Feb. 23 at BYU
Saturday, Feb. 28 vs. UNLV
Saturday, Feb. 21 at Utah