Dec. 31, 2002
Date: Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2:05 p.m. MST
Site: Clune Arena (6,002), USAFA, Colo.
Radio: KVOR AM 740 in Colorado Springs
Records: Air Force is 6-4, Georgia Southern is 7-3.
Coaches: Air Force is coached by Joe Scott (Princeton, 1987), who is in his third season with the Falcons. He has a 23-44 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.
Georgia Southern is coached by Jeff Price (Pikeville, 1981), who is in his fourth season with the Eagles. He has a 54-42 record at Georgia Southern, and a career record of 191-84 in nine seasons. Price coached for six years at Lynn University in Florida, leading that team to three consecutive trips to the Division II national tournament.
Series: Air Force has won the only two previous games between the two schools, including a 70-56 victory earlier this season in Statesboro, Ga. The Falcons recorded an 87-82 victory over the Eagles in the consolation game of the Blade-Glass Tournament in Toledo, Ohio on Dec. 30, 1986.
Scouting Georgia Southern
Georgia Southern is 7-3 after winning its third consecutive game, defeating Savannah State 83-69 Monday night. The Eagles beat Spring Hill 66-41 on Dec. 16, and Wagner, 90-81, on Dec. 21. Those two games came after Air Force beat the Eagles, 70-56, in Statesboro on Dec. 8. The Eagles opened the season by winning the Maine Tip-off Classic with victories over John Jay (83-60) and Maine (91-77). The team then lost to Vanderbilt, 96-60, before defeating North Georgia, 112-85, and Savannah State, 74-62. Julius Jenkins leads the team in scoring, averaging 21.6 points per game. He had a team-high 21 points against Air Force earlier this year. Frank Bennett follows with a 15.0-point per game average after scoring 17 points against Wagner. Bennett leads the team in rebounding, averaging 8.8 boards. Terry Williams has a team-high 36 assists. Georgia Southern is a member of the Southern Conference. The Eagles were 9-7 in conference play a year ago and won the South Division title, but lost to Furman, 73-70, in the first round of the conference tournament.
Last Time Against Ga. Southern
Air Force 70, Georgia Southern 56
Dec. 8, 2002 at Statesboro, Ga.
A.J. Kuhle led a balanced scoring attack with a career-high 23 points, including 15 in the second half as Air Force defeated Georgia Southern, 70-56. Kuhle made eight-of-11 shots from the field, including four-of-six from three-point range, and added three rebounds, three assists and two steals. Keller had three assists and two steals and the Falcons recorded 20 assists for the second consecutive game, and turned the ball over just 10 times. Air Force, which ran its offense to perfection in the first 29 minutes of the game, withstood a 14-0 run by Georgia Southern after Kuhle gave Air Force its biggest lead of the game, 57-33, with 11:26 remaining. The Falcons were held scoreless for 8:09 before Kuhle hit a three-pointer to give AFA a 60-47 advantage with just over three minutes remaining. Georgia Southern cut the lead to nine on a three-pointer by Terry Williams with 1:14 to go, but Kuhle scored the next five points, three from the free throw line and a layup after rebounding his own missed free throw, to put the game away for the Falcons.
The Falcons continue their four-game homestand on Saturday, Jan. 4 with a game against service academy rival Navy at 4:05 p.m.
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.
Holding On To The Ball
The Falcons committed a school-record low five turnovers against Belmont. Air Force had just 22 turnovers during its three-game win streak, including victories over UT-Pan American (7) and Georgia Southern (10). It is the fewest by an Air Force team in a three-game stretch in the history of the program.
Top Ten in NCAA Stats
The Falcons are currently ranked in the top 10 in the country for the following categories:
Three-pointers made per game -- 10.6 -- 2nd
Three-point percentage -- 44.4 -- 3rd
Scoring Defense -- 57.1 -- 7th
Air Force is currently second in the nation in three-pointers made per game, sinking 10.6 long range shots each contest. Davidson College leads the country, averaging 11.6 three-pointers per game. Despite making just 36.6 percent (26-of-71) bombs the last three games, the Falcons continue to be red-hot from long range, making 44.4 percent (106-239) of its shots from beyond the line. That is the third-best three-point percentage in the country. Individually, Air Force has the top three 3-point percentage shooters in the Mountain West Conference. Vernard Jenkins leads the conference at 52.6 percent (10-of-19), followed by Tim Keller at 50.7 percent (36-of-71) and A.J. Kuhle at 48.6 percent (17-of-35).
Big Monday Matchup
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).
Air Force has now made a 3-point shot in 307 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.
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 809 points and 620 rebounds in 90 career games. Bellairs moved into the No. 4 spot on the school's all-time rebounding list against UTEP and is 29th on the school's scoring chart. Bellairs posted the 11th and 12th double-doubles of his career during the 2001-02 campaign. He leads all current Falcons in career points and rebounds.
Starters Still Shooting Lights Out
Three of Air Force's five starters are shooting better than 50 percent from the field this season. The only two starters not in that group, Tim Keller and Joel Gerlach, are at 49.0 and 49.4 percent, respectively. However, Keller is shooting 50.7% from three-point range, No. 2 in the MWC behind Jenkins, who leads the MWC in 3-point percentage at 52.6 percent.
Last Time Out
Sierra Providence SunClassic at El Paso, TX
Alabama-Birmingham 69, Air Force 59
Dec. 27, 2002, First Round
Morris Finley scored 18 points and pulled down a team-high five rebounds to lead Alabama-Birmingham to a 69-59 victory over Air Force in the opening round of the Sierra Providence Sun Classic Basketball Tournament Friday. Richard Jones scored 14 points for the Blazers while Demario Eddins and Gabe Kennedy each added 11 points. Air Force was led by Joel Gerlach and Tim Keller, who each scored 16 points. Keller pulled down a career-high seven rebounds. Air Force shot 70 percent, 14-for-20, in the first half en route to a 35-28 halftime lead. But the Falcons were held to just 33 percent, 6-18, in the second half and were outscored 41-24 in the final 20 minutes.
Notes from the UAB Game
-- Sophomore Tim Keller had a career-high seven rebounds and tied career-best marks with four assists and 38 minutes
-- Senior Vernard Jenkins had season-highs of five rebounds and 38 minutes
-- Junior Joel Gerlach played a season-high 40 minutes
-- The Falcons lost their first game of the season when outshooting their opponent (52.6% to 47.9%)
-- For the third time in the past four games, AFA shot 70 percent or better from the field in the first half (14-20, 70.0%)
-- The team shot below 66 percent from the free throw line for the sixth consecutive game (12-19, 63.2%)
Air Force 63, UTEP 45
Dec. 28, 2002, Consolation Game
A.J. Kuhle and Tim Keller scored 17 points apiece to lead Air Force to a 63-45 victory over Texas-El Paso in the consolation game of the Sun Classic Basketball Tournament on Saturday. For the eighth time in ten games this season, Air Force led at halftime after a 15-3 run midway through the first stanza gave the Falcons a 21-12 lead with 5:30 remaining in the half. Kuhle sparked the run with three consecutive three-pointers. The teams traded baskets the rest of the half and the Falcons took a 28-20 lead to the break. Air Force extended the lead to 42-26 the first five minutes of the second half thanks to six points from junior Joel Gerlach, who finished the game with 14 points. Kuhle, Keller and Gerlach combined for nine-of-16 shooting from three-point range and the Falcons picked up their shooting in the second half, making 52.4 percent of their field goal attempts (11-21). Air Force also played stellar defense the entire game, holding UTEP to 27.6 percent shooting in the second half and 30.4 percent for the game. UTEP made a charge midway through the second half with five straight points to cut the lead to 46-34, but Keller responded with a three-pointer at the 7:38 mark to push the advantage back up to 15. After UTEP closed the lead to 10 at 49-39, AFA ran off six consecutive points with layups from senior Vernard Jenkins and sophomore Marc Holum and two free throws by Kuhle to put the game out of reach. Kuhle was named to the all-tournament team, as was John Tofi of UTEP, who led the Miners with 15 points and a game-high 12 rebounds. UTEP out-rebounded Air Force, 36-29, and the Falcons had 15 assists and just 13 turnovers.
Notes from the UTEP Game
-- Junior A.J. Kuhle had a season-high seven rebounds and tied his season-high with four assists in 40 minutes of play
-- Sophomore Tim Keller tied his career-high with 38 minutes of action
-- Sophomore David Peterson tied a career-high with three assists for the third time this season
-- Senior Tom Bellairs moved into the No. 4 spot on AFA's all-time rebounding list with 620
-- The Falcons grabbed a season-high 29 rebounds, the most in one game since pulling down 31 against Wyoming on Jan. 27, 2001
-- Air Force allowed a season-low 14 field goals, the fewest since BYU made 14 in the regular-season finale of the 2000-01 campaign
-- Air Force led at halftime for the eighth time in 10 games this year
-- The team shot below 66 percent from the free throw line for the seventh consecutive game (10-18, 55.6%)
Jenkins Climbing Career Lists
Senior guard Vernard Jenkins moved into the top five on two career lists last week. He is now fourth on the school's all-time assist list with 298 career assists, and No. 4 on the school's list for career steals. He has 129 steals in his career.
AFA in Conference Statistics
Several Air Force players are among the top 10 for Mountain West Conference statistical leaders as of Monday, Dec. 30.
#1 -- three-pointers made per game, 3.60
#2 -- three-point field goal percentage, 50.7
#4 -- points per game, 15.8
#4 -- steals per game, 1.60
#4 -- blocked shots per game, 1.20
#5 -- three-pointers made per game, 2.10
#8 -- three-point field goal percentage, 43.8
#9 -- free throw percentage, 77.5
#1 -- three-point field goal percentage, 52.6
#2 -- assist/turnover ratio, 2.00
#7 -- assists per game, 3.00
#3 -- three-point field goal percentage, 48.6
#9 -- field goal percentage, 52.9
#9 -- three-pointers made per game, 1.70
Best Start vs. Division I
For the first time in the history of the program, Air Force was 5-2 in its first seven games against Division I teams. The last time the Falcons won their first three home games against Division I opponents was the 1977-78 campaign, which marks the last winning season for Air Force (15-10).
On Fire in the First Half
Air Force has been outstanding in the first half all season long. The Falcons have trailed only twice at halftime (at Louisville and Oakland) and are outscoring their opponents 323-239 in the first half this year. AFA is shooting 55.4 (113-204) and 52.8 (67-127) percent from the field and three-point range, respectively, in the first half, compared to just 44.3 (90-203) and 38.2 (39-102) percent in the second half.
Highest Computer Rankings Ever
On Dec. 16, AFA was ranked 70th in the Sagarin Ratings, and 153rd in the RPI rankings. Both are the highest ever acheived by Air Force.
60 Points is the Key
The 60-point mark seems to be important for the Falcons this season. Air Force is 5-0 when it reaches the 60-point plateau, and 1-4 when it scores less than 60. The only victory this season with a point total under 60 is the 57-52 win at Arkansas State. Defensively, the Falcons are also 5-0 when allowing less than 60 points to an opponent, and 1-4 when thier opponent scores more than 60. The 85-76 victory over Belmont is AFA's lone win when giving up more than 60 points.
Home Sweet Home...
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 last Saturday night, 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 a victory over Georgia Southern on Wednesday, Jan. 1, the Falcons will set a school record for the most non-conference Division I wins in one season, and join just three other Air Force teams to win at least seven non-conference games. Last year's team won six non-conference games, all against Division I opponents. 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.