Falcons Take On Utah AT MWC Championships

    The Air Force women's basketball team heads to Denver, Colo., for the 2005 Mountain West Conference Championships this week, March 9-12. The Falcons, seeded seventh for the first time in school history, will take on second-seed Utah, which tied for the regular season championship, at 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday in the Pepsi Center.

    Last Time Out...
    The Falcons dropped the last two contest of the regular season to fall to 7-20, 2-12 in the MWC. Air Force led throughout most of the first half against Wyoming, but after trailing by one at the break, went cold in the final period, falling 60-43. Alecia Steele had a team-high 12 points and five rebounds, despite playing with a sprained ankle. Meanwhile, the Falcons struggled throughout against Colorado State on Saturday, shooting just 17 percent in the opening stanza. Air's Force's offense could never get going, as it dropped the 75-40 decision. Pamela Findlay was the lone scorer in double figures for the Falcons with 14 points.

    Scouting the Utes...
    Utah wrapped up the regular season with a 23-6 overall record is tied for first place in the Mountain West with a 12-2 league mark. The Utes were awarded the second seed in the tournament, as they lost the tiebreaker to New Mexico, who swept them in the regular season.

    The Utes are led by MWC Co-Players of the Year, Kim Smith and Shona Thorburn. Smith is the conference's leading scorer and rebounder with 17.8 points and 9.1 rebounds per game. Meanwhile, Thorburn leads the league in assists with 6.52 per contest, while also averaging 15.7 points per game.

    This Season Vs. The Utes...
    Air Force dropped both contests to Utah this season, losing 97-47 at home, before falling 74-45 in the Huntsman Center.

    In Clune Arena, Utah's defensive pressure held Air Force to just five field goals in the first half, as the Utes rolled to a 43-19 advantage at the break. The second half was no better for the Falcons, who saw Utah shoot a blistering 21-of-32 from the field. The Utes led by as many as 52 points before taking the 97-47 victory.

    The second contest was not much better as Utah shot 62.5 percent from the field in the opening stanza, including 7-of-12 from beyond the arc. With a 28-17 lead, the Utes hit three consecutive long-range bombs to take a 37-17 advantage into the locker room.

    The Utes pulled away in the second half with an early 14-0 run. Although the Falcons went on to score eight straight, they could never come close, trailing by as many as 30 as they shot just over 29 percent for the game. Meanwhile, the Utes hit 63 percent and grabbed a 39-26 advantage on the boards, as they cruised to the 74-45 victory.

    How We Rate...
    In the latest conference statistics released March 6, Air Force remained the league's leader atop the Mountain West in offensive rebounds (15.07 pg).

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

    Rank Stat

    Alecia Steele 10 11.3

    Alecia Steele 7 6.6

    Off. Rebounds
    Alecia Steele 6 2.81

    Def. Rebounds
    Alecia Steele 10 3.81

    Lauren Henderson 3 4.07

    Assist/Turnover Ratio
    Lauren Henderson 6 1.33

    FT Pct.
    Letricia Castillo 8 .753
    Alecia Steele 9 .748

    Ellen Jaeschke 4 1.00

    How They Rate...
    Utah ranks first in the Mountain West in three-point field goal percentage (.370), assists (16.31 pg) and assist/turnover ratio (1.13), while ranking second in scoring offense (67.0 ppg), scoring defense (55.4 ppg), scoring margin (+11.6), field goal percentage (.431), rebounding defense (32.3 pg) and three-point field goals made (6.83 pg).

    The Streaks...
    Utah has won its last five games, its last loss a 70-63 defeat at the hands of New Mexico. Meanwhile, Air Force has dropped seven in a row, with its last win coming against Wyoming, a 69-66 overtime victory.

    Falcons & Utes In The Tourney...
    This year, Air Force and Utah will meet in the opening round of the MWC Tournament for the fourth time. The Falcons have faced only two other schools in tournament play, Colorado State in 2002 and New Mexico last season.

    While Air Force has never defeated Utah, the Falcons did fall just four points short of the upset in 2001, losing to the Utes 53-50.

    Utes' Tough D...
    The Falcons have struggled offensively this season against Utah, averaging just 46 points per contest against the Utes, more than 12 points below their season average. Meanwhile, Utah has averaged 85.5 points per game against the Air Force.

    Steele, Henderson Receive All-MWC Honors...
    Freshmen Alecia Steele and Lauren Henderson have been named as honorable mention All-Mountain West Conference selections for their performance this season.

    Steele leads the Falcons with 11.3 points and 6.6 rebounds per game. She ranks 10th in the Mountain West in scoring, while rating seventh in rebounding. Steele is also ninth in the conference at the charity stripe with a .748 free throw percentage. In addition, Steele's five double-doubles this season are the most for an Air Force player since moving to the Division I level in the 1996-97 season.

    Henderson has been impressive in her first season handling the Air Force offense. She ranks third in the conference with 4.07 assists per contest and holds a 1.33 assist-to-turnover ratio. Her 110 assists this season rank tied for 10th in the Air Force single season record book, and she has been instrumental in helping this year's squad set a slew of Falcon Division I records, including the most conference wins in a season. Henderson is also one of Air Force's best assets beyond the arc, as she ranks 13th in the league with a .337 three-point field goal percentage.

    Record-Breaking Season...
    While the Falcons' record is somewhat disappointing for the team, they have acheived a great deal of success, with several Division I school records already achieved or within reach. Below is where Air Force stands right now, with current school records in parentheses:

    FGs Made 570 (575)
    Rebounds 1008
    Rebound Margin -1.0 (-2.5)
    Assists 339 (342)
    Blocks 77
    Points 1591 (1639)
    Scoring Average 58.9 (58.5)
    Scoring Margin -9.8 (-13.1)

    Steele Looking For the Record...
    With 179 rebounds this season, freshman Alecia Steele is just one rebound away from tying the school's Division I record for rebounds in a single season.

    Free Throws aren't Free...
    The Falcons have been struggling from the foul line as of late, shooting 50 percent or worse in three of their last four contests, including a season-low 44.4 percent against Wyoming.

    Everyone Lends A Hand...
    All seven of the Falcons' first half assists were dished out by different players. Freshman point guard Lauren Henderson had the only Air Force assist in the second half.

    She Dishes The Rock...
    Freshman Lauren Henderson needs just two more assists to break into the Falcons' top-10 list for assists in a single season. She currently has 108 assists in her first season as a Falcon.


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