Air Force Women Face Utah In First Round Of MWC Championship
The Air Force women's basketball team heads to the 2006 Mountain West Conference Women's Basketball Championship this week, March 7-11, being held at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colo. The Falcons, seeded seventh in the tournament, will face second-seed Utah in the opening round at 12:00 p.m. on Tuesday, March 8.

Last Week...
Air Force concluded the regular season last Saturday by wrapping up its second season sweep with a 79-65 victory over visiting Colorado State.

Leading the Falcons in scoring was junior co-captain Letricia Castillo, who finished with 17 points, four rebounds and two assists, while Pamela Findlay added 13 points, nine rebounds and a team-high five assists. Meanwhile, Lauren Henderson added 10 points by connecting on 8-of-10 attempts from the free throw line, and Alecia Steele just missed out on a double-double with eight points and 10 rebounds.

Scouting the Falcons...
Air Force enters the conference tournament with a 13-14 overall record, 4-12 ledger in the MWC. The team's 13 wins are a program best at the Division I level, while the Falcons' four victories in the Mountain West are also a school record. Alecia Steele is the lone scorer averaging in double figures with 10.1 points per game, while she also leads the team with 6.4 rebounds per contest. Meanwhile, Pamela Findlay is averaging 9.7 points per game, while Letricia Castillo adds 9.6 points per contest.

Scouting the Utes...
Utah, ranked 17th in the AP poll released Feb. 27, enters the MWC Tournament with a 21-6 overall record and 12-4 mark in the MWC, after falling to TCU, 63-62, last week, followed by a 69-67 overtime victory over Wyoming.

The Utes are led by four-time conference player of the year, Kim Smith, who averages 20.0 points and 7.9 rebounds per contest, while Shona Thorburn adds 11.2 points, 6.8 assists and 6.3 rebounds per contest.

How We Rate...
In the latest conference statistics released March 4, Air Force is ranked among the conference leaders in several categories. The Falcons are second in the MWC in offensive rebounds (14.70 pg), while ranking third in free throw percentage (.741), rebounding defense (34.8 pg), turnover margin (+1.33) and tied for third in steals (8.96 pg).

In addition, several Falcons rank among the conference's top-10 individual leaders in various categories:

Rank Stat

FG Pct.
Pamela Findlay 7 .457

3PT FG Pct.
Pamela Findlay T4 .422

Alecia Steele 9 6.4

Off. Rebounds
Alecia Steele 7 2.48

Ellen Jaeschke 5 1.07

How They Rate...
In the latest conference statistics released March 4, Utah leads the league in scoring margin (+13.5), field goal percentage (.435), assists (16.74 pg), three-point field goals made (7.07 pg), assist-to-turnover ratio (1.16) and is tied for first in rebounding defense (33.4 pg).

In addition, a few players from the team rank among the conference's top-five individual leaders in various categories:

Rank Stat

Kim Smith 1 20.0

FG Pct.
Kim Smith 3 .545

3PT FG Pct.
Julie Larsen 1 .486

Shona Thorburn 1 6.81

Kim Smith 2 7.9

Def. Rebounds
Kim Smith 2 5.48

Kim Smith 5 2.00

A Record-Setting Season...
With at least one more game remaining for the Falcons this season, the team has already set new program Division I records, including points and field goals made and already on pace to set new records for field goals attempted, field goal percentage and assists. In addition, Air Force has already set a program best for wins as a Division I program with 13, nearly double its previous record of seven.

All-MWC Recognition...
Sophomore Alecia Steele earns all-conference recognition for the second straight season, this time being named a third team All-MWC selection. The first team is led co-players of the year Kim Smith of Utah and Ambrosia Anderson of BYU. Rounding out the first team selections are Shona Thorburn (Utah), Dionne Marsh (New Mexico), Sherry McCracklin (UNLV) and Hanna Zavecz (Wyoming). The second team features Natasha Lacy (TCU), Katie Montgomery (New Mexico), Dani Kubik (BYU) and Sheena Moore (UNLV). The third team includes Steele, Adrianne Ross (TCU), Abbie Letz (New Mexico), Melissa Dennett (Colorado State) and Jodi Bolerjack (Wyoming), while Mallary Gillespie (BYU), Erin Hicks (Wyoming), Michelle Strawberry (San Diego State), Ashley Davis (TCU), Lorie Butler-Rayford (TCU), Melinda Johnsen (BYU and Jennie Keele (BYU) are all honorable mention picks.

BYU's Jeff Judkins, who led his team to its first regular season conference title, was named Coach of the Year, while Wyoming's Megan McGuffey and Hanna Zavecz were named Newcomer and Defensive Player of the Year, respectively.

A Positive Trend...
With its win over Colorado State on Saturday, Air Force improved its record to 11-0 when leading at the half. In contrast, the Falcons are just 2-12 when trailing at halftime and 0-2 when the score is tied at intermission.

Getting to the Line...
Sophomore point guard Lauren Henderson has been impressive from the charity stripe all season and is shooting over 90 percent from the line, connecting on 37-of-41 free throws, including a career-best 8-of-10 effort in the Falcons' win over Colorado State on Saturday. Henderson would lead the Mountain West in free throw percentage, but due to the surgery which kept her out of 15 games, she has not played in 75 percent of Air Force's contests, which is required to be listed among the league's leaders.

Leading the Team...
With her 13 points and nine rebounds in Air Force's loss to UNLV, sophomore Alecia Steele, the Falcons' top scorer and rebounder, has scored in double-figures a team-best 13 times this season, while leading the team in scoring in nine games and finishing as the team's top rebounder on 16 occasions, including her 10 rebounds in the Falcons' regular-season finale victory over Colorado State.

Get Out The Broom...
With Air Force's 74-45 victory over San Diego State on Feb. 8, the team accomplished something it had never done before--completed a season sweep of an MWC team. They repeated the accomplishment with a 79-65 win over Colorado State in the regular season finale. Now the Falcons set a new MWC conference win record with four victories and improve their school record win mark as a Division I team with 13 wins and counting.


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