Air Force Host Army, Western State To Close Out Non-Conference Slate
After taking a week off for the holiday break, Air Force returns to action Thursday, Dec. 29, with a 1:00 p.m. contest versus service academy rival Army. On Saturday, Dec. 31, the Falcons will close out the non-conference slate and calendar year with a 2:00 p.m. game against Western State.
Radio broadcasts of both the Air Force-Army and Air Force-Western State games will be available locally on The Sports Animal 1300 AM. Subscribers to "Bolt Action", a feature of AirForceSports.com, will also be able to access the broadcasts. Jay Ritchie, in his 19th season of airing Air Force athletics, will handle play-by-play duties.
• Air Force is coached by Ardie McInelly (Boise State, 1982), who is in her fifth year at the helm of the Falcons' program. She has compiled an overall record of 28-93 while at the Academy and holds a career record of 105-155 (10th year).
• Army is coached by Maggie Dixon (San Diego, 1999), in her first year as head coach of the Black Knights. Dixon has compiled a mark of 5-5 in her first stint as a head coach.
• Western State is coached by Al Sokaitis, in his first year as head coach of the Mountaineers. Sokaitis, who also coaches Western State's men's team, has compiled a mark of 3-6 in his first women's coaching stint.
• The series between service academy rivals Air Force and Army is tied, 5-5. Last year, the Black Knights held off a second-half Falcon rally to take the 60-53 victory in West Point.
• Air Force leads the all-time series with Western State, 15-0. The two teams last played on Dec. 11, 1995, when the Falcons grabbed a 72-55 win.
Scouting the Falcons...
Air Force broke a two-game home losing streak last week, defeating cross-town foe UCCS, 68-56. Dawn Higginbotham paced the team with a career-high 16 points, Alecia Steele had 15 points and eight rebounds and Letricia Castillo and Pamela Findlay added 12 points each.
For the season, Findlay leads the Falcons with 12.2 points per game, while Steele is also averaging in double-figures with 11.0 ppg. Steele is also the team's top rebounder, getting 7.4 boards per contest.
Scouting the Black Knights...
Army split its last two contests, losing to defending national champion Baylor, 85-68, on Dec. 17, before capturing a 67-54 win over Gardner-Webb on Dec. 19.
The Black Knights are led by Cara Enright, who is averaging 17.3 points and 4.8 rebounds per contest. Meanwhile, Erin Begonia has a team-high 3.1 assists per contest, while Megan Vrabel is the top rebounder with 4.9 per game.
Scouting the Mountaineers...
Western State is coming off a 67-51 loss to Nebraska-Kearney on Dec. 17. Audra Lawson led the Mountaineers in that game with 16 points and seven rebounds.
On the season, Lawson paces Western State with 11.0 points and 8.1 rebounds per contest. In addition, starting point guard Valerie Hartman is averaging in double-figures scoring with 10.8 ppg; however, Hartman has missed the Mountaineers' last three contests.
Air Force's concludes its four-game home stretch--its longest home stand of the year--this week with the Army and Western State games. Then it is back on the road next week for the Falcons, who travel to BYU and San Diego State.
Looking for the Record-Breaker...
This week the Falcons have an opportunity to set a new record--for most season wins as a Division I team.
Air Force has already matched its Division I record for season wins with seven. The record was first set in the 2002-03 season, and again in 2004-05. All three seven-win seasons have come under current head coach Ardie McInelly.
How We Rate...
In the latest conference statistics released Dec. 26, Air Force found itself ranked at the top or near the top in several categories. The Falcons lead the MWC in free throw percentage (.791), rebounding defense (32.8 pg) and rebounding margin (+10.0). Meanwhile, Air Force ranks second in scoring offense (70.1 ppg) and offensive rebounds (16.56 pg).
In addition, several Falcons rank among the conference's top-10 individual leaders in various categories:
3Pt. FG Pct.
Turning it Over...
While the Falcons have been good about committing less turnovers than their opponents this season, they didn't do so against UCCS. While Air Force committed 24 turnovers against UCCS, the Mountain Lions had only 15 turnovers.
Still Crashing the Boards...
Air Force continues to be an effective rebounding team, outrebounding all of its opponents this season. The UCCS game was no exception, as the Falcons held a 48-31 advantage on the boards.
The Falcons move on to conference play next week, starting with a Jan. 5 contest with BYU in Provo, Utah. Air Force will then continue its road trip on Jan. 7, as it takes on San Diego State.