Falcons End Regular Season At Wyoming, Colorado State
The Air Force women's basketball wraps up the regular season this weekend, as they hit the road for a pair of games against Wyoming and Colorado State. The Falcons take on Wyoming on Thursday, March 3, at 7:05 p.m., while they face Colorado State in the season finale on Saturday, March 5, at 2:00 p.m. The Wyoming game will be televised by Altitude Sports (Adelphia Ch. 54 in Colorado Springs) and will also be broadcast on The Sports Animal 1300 AM, with Jay Ritchie calling the play-by-play.
Last Time Out...
The Falcons (7-18, 2-10) dropped a pair of games at home last week, falling 70-63 to UNLV before dropping a 77-61 decision to San Diego State on Senior Day. Air Force shot 52 percent against the Lady Rebels on Thursday, including 60 percent in the first half, but hit just 8-of-16 free throws in the seven-point loss. Jacki Novak scored a career-high 14 points, while freshman Pamela Findlay added 11 points. In contrast, Air Force shot just over 37 percent against San Diego State, but hit 83.3 percent (15-of-18) from the foul line. Meanwhile, the Aztecs connected on almost 55 percent of it shots from the field to take the 16-point victory. Leading the way was freshman Alecia Steele with 18 points and five rebounds, while sophomore co-captain Letricia Castillo added 14 points.
Scouting the Cowgirls...
Wyoming enters this week's contest with a 15-10 record and is tied for fourth place in the Mountain West with a 6-6 record. The Cowgirls picked up a huge 68-45 victory against Colorado State last week.
The Cowgirls are led in scoring by Ashley Elliott (17.2 pg), Hanna Zavecz (14.6 pg) and Erin Hicks (10.7 pg). Elliott leads the MWC in scoring, free throw percentage (.870), three-point field goals made (2.28 pg) and steals (2.68 pg), while ranking fourth in assists (4.16 pg). Meanwhile, Hicks and Zavecz rank in the top 10 in rebounding at 7.3 and 6.6 boards per game, respectively.
Last Time Vs. The Cowgirls...
Air Force overcame a 12-point halftime deficit to defeat Wyoming, 69-66, in overtime, in Clune Arena on Feb. 5.
Wyoming owned the opening half, getting out to an early 5-0 lead. Despite a few offensive flurries by the Falcons, Wyoming took a 34-22 lead into intermission, hitting 45 percent from the field, including five shots from beyond the arc.
The second half was a completely different story, as the Falcons began working away at the margin, pulling within 10 with 14:35 remaining in the half. The Falcons went on to score the next five points, including four by freshman Ashley Mickens, but Wyoming again stretched its lead to eight points at 44-36.
Not ready to back down, Air Force went on an 8-0 run to tie the game for just the second time, fueled by solid play from its bench. However, Wyoming responded by scoring seven straight to regain control. Once again, Mickens' hustle on both ends of the court helped ignite a spurt by the Falcons that tied the game again, capped off by a jumper by Alecia Steele at the 3:23 mark.
Twice more, Wyoming regained the lead, and twice more, Air Force had an answer. After a pair of free throws by Ashley Elliott gave the Cowgirls a 56-54 advantage, Steele grabbed an offensive board on the other end and was fouled on the game-tying putback. Her free throw gave Air Force its first lead of the game with 1:25 remaining in regulation. Freshman Lauren Henderson hit a pair of free throws with 24 seconds on the clock to put the Falcons up 59-56, but Wyoming's Kristen Lenhardt drained a three with 10 seconds left to bring about the third overtime game of the season for Air Force.
The Cowgirls scored the first bucket in overtime, but the Falcons came back to tie and then take a 64-61 lead. However, three straight free throws by Wyoming tied the game for the eighth time with 1:10 left on the clock. A driving layup by Henderson with 44.6 seconds remaining put Air Force back up, but Wyoming's Erin Hicks responded with a jumper just 20 seconds later. With a chance to avoid another overtime period, Henderson once again went in for the score, getting fouled on the drive to set up an opportunity for a three-point play. The free throw was good, as Air Force held on for the 69-66 victory, its first win in overtime this season.
Steele and Henderson led the Falcons, who shot over 40 percent for the game, with 15 points each. Steele added a team-high nine rebounds, while Henderson recorded eight assists and just one turnover. Meanwhile, Mickens tallied a career-high nine points and eight rebounds, including six offensive boards. Wyoming was led by Elliott with 15 points, while Lenhardt added 13. In addition, Hicks notched a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds.
Scouting the Rams...
Colorado State, which currently holds a 14-11 record (5-7 in the MWC), will face New Mexico on Thursday before hosting Air Force in the regular season finale. Last week, the Rams dropped a pair of contest, falling 65-48 to Wyoming before losing 77-69 to Utah.
Melissa Dennett (14.3 ppg), Lindsay Thomas (12.6 ppg) and Vanessa Espinoza (11.4 ppg) are Colorado State's top three scorers, with Dennett and Thomas ranking seventh and eighth, respectively, in the conference. Dennett and Thomas also rank fourth and fifth in rebounding, with 8.2 and 7.8 rpg, respectively. Thomas also leads the conference in blocks per game with 1.48. Meanwhile, Espinoza is the Rams' assist leader with 3.16 per game, rated eighth-best in the league.
Last Time Vs. The Rams...
Colorado State shot over 68 percent from the field in the second half to pull away as the Air Force women's basketball team lost to the Rams, 63-42, on Feb. 3 in Clune Arena.
Both teams struggled offensively in the opening period with the Falcons holding a 9-8 advantage midway through the first half. However, the Rams outscored Air Force 19-5 for the remainder of the half to take a 27-14 lead into the break. The Falcons' 14 first-half tied a season low for points in a half, set first in the loss at Boise State.
Air Force tried to make some noise coming out of the locker room, using tough defense and a solid shooting effort to claw its way back into the game. With just under 11 minutes remaining, the Falcons trailed 42-34 and had some momentum going in their direction. However, the Rams went on a 19-3 run to essentially seal the victory.
While Colorado State shot over 48 percent for the game, the Falcons were only able to hit 32 percent of their shots. In addition, Colorado State, the conference's leading rebounding team, finished with a 42-25 rebound advantage.
Leading the way for the Falcons in the game was Alecia Steele with 12 points and seven rebounds. Meanwhile, sophomore Jacki Novak finished with a then career-high 10 points. For the Rams, Lindsay Thomas scored a game-high 16 points on 8-of-10 shooting, while adding seven rebounds. Vanessa Espinoza chipped in 14 points and Melissa Dennett grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds to go along with her seven points.
How We Rate...
In the latest conference statistics released Feb. 27, the Falcons ranked atop the Mountain West in offensive rebounds (15.20 pg).
In addition, several Falcons rank among the conference's top 10 leaders in various categories:
Alecia Steele 7 6.7
Alecia Steele 7 2.84
Alecia Steele 9 3.88
Lauren Henderson 3 4.32
Lauren Henderson 5 1.40
Letricia Castillo 9 .753
Alecia Steele 10 .748
Ellen Jaeschke 2 1.08
How They Rate...
Wyoming ranks first in the league in free throw percentage (.745) and three-point field goals made (7.36 pg), while ranking second in turnover margin (+2.64).
Meanwhile, Colorado State leads the Mountain West in rebounds (40.9 pg), defensive rebounds (27.4 pg) and three-point field goal defense (.306), while ranking second in both rebounding margin (+6.0) and blocks (3.72 pg).
Down, But Not Out...
Air Force fans suffered a bit of a scare on Saturday, when the Falcons' leading scorer, Alecia Steele, who had 18 points in the loss to San Diego State went out with under four minutes remaining in the contest. After going for a rebound, Steele went down hard, spraining her ankle. However, she is expected to return to the Air Force lineup this weekend against Wyoming and Colorado State and is listed as probable for Thursday night's game.
At The Line...
The Falcons' 83.3 percent shooting at the free throw line against San Diego State on Saturday was its second-highest percentage of the season, as they hit 15-of-18 foul shots, including an impressive 11-of-12 in the second half.
There was another notable statistic at the foul line, as San Diego State went to the charity stripe 38 times, a new season high for Air Force opponents.
A Career Night...
Sophomore center Jacki Novak had a great game against UNLV last week, scoring a career-high 14 points on 7-of-9 shooting. It marked just the second time in her career that she has scored in double figures.
The Falcons were hot from the field against the Lady Rebels last Thursday, shooting 52 percent, including 60 percent in the opening stanza. It was just the second time this season that Air Force has shot over 50 percent in a game, the last coming on Jan. 8 in a 71-51 victory over Regis.