Sunday’s box score
WSU 72, Air Force 69
Percentages: FG .583, FT .714. 3-Point Goals: 6-19, .316 (Williams 3-4, Baker 2-4, Armstead 1-4, Van Vleet 0-1, Cotton 0-1, Wiggins 0-1, Early 0-2, Wessel 0-2). Team Rebounds: 2. Blocked Shots: 1 (Wessel). Turnovers: 19 (Van Vleet 3, Williams 3, Early 3, Armstead 2, White 2, Lufile 2, Baker 2, Cotton, Wessel). Steals: 5 (Armstead 2, Hall, Van Vleet, Williams). Technical Fouls: None.
Percentages: FG .455, FT .560. 3-Point Goals: 5-16, .313 (Fitzgerald 2-3, Lyons 2-8, Green 1-1, Coggins 0-1, Broekhuis 0-1, Fletcher 0-2). Team Rebounds: 5. Blocked Shots: 1 (Broekhuis). Turnovers: 9 (Fitzgerald 3, Lyons 2, Green 2, Broekhuis, Coggins). Steals: 11 (Fitzgerald 3, Earls 3, Lyons 3, Green 2). Technical Fouls: None.
Att.–1,793. Officials–Scott Thornley, David Hall, John Higgins.
Air Force’s three-point shooting meant the Shockers didn’t help or double team when the ball went into the post. They preferred letting the Falcons go one-on-one in the lane to giving up open threes.
WSU senior Demetric Williams ignored that strategy once and it paid off. The Falcons trailed 66-63 with 1:16 remaining. They ran a play after a timeout that produced a mismatch in the lane with 6-foot-2 guard Malcolm Armstead guarding 6-10 center Taylor Broekhuis. Williams left his man and rushed toward Broekhuis, ripping the ball away. Bodies hit the floor in pursuit of the ball, with Carl Hall ultimately grabbing it and passing to Armstead. The Falcons fouled him and Armstead’s free throws gave WSU a 68-63 lead with 54.2 seconds to play.
“I knew that when the post player got it, I knew he wanted to be aggressive and not even look for a double team because we hadn’t been doing it the whole game,” Williams said. “It was just an instinct play.”
WSU coach Gregg Marshall loved the way his players chased the loose ball.
“Everybody is flying to the ball, but it’s black shirts that are a little quicker,” he said.
The Falcons shoot the ball accurately, run a precision offense and don’t turn the ball over. Put them at the foul line, however, and they look lost.
Air Force made 14 of 25 on Sunday, dropping their season percentage to 62.5 percent.
"We shoot every day in practice and we make free throws," coach Dave Pilipovich said. "We’re a good shooting team and we’re better than we’ve shot here over the last few games. We have to make free throws.”
The Shockers can look forward to Monday’s release of the top 25 rankings with a good amount of optimism.
After checking in at No. 27 in the Associated Press rankings a week ago, WSU went 2-0. No. 19 Colorado may drop out after a loss at Wyoming on Saturday. No. 26 Alabama lost at No. 17 Cincinnati.
WSU entered the rankings in February last season and ended the season No. 18, so this is nothing new to the Shockers.
“If we’re in the top 25, that’s good, but at the same time it’s about the 14 guys in (the locker room) and getting better,” Armstead said.
WSU center Ehimen Orukpe missed his second game with a sprained right ankle. He traveled with the team and did not suit up.…WSU improved to 3-1 in Mountain West-Missouri Valley Conference Challenge Series games. The MWC leads this season’s series 4-3 with two game remaining, Wyoming at Illinois State (Dec. 4) and Northern Iowa at UNLV (Dec. 19).… WSU improved to 2-0 in the series with the Falcons.… Shocker sophomore Tekele Cotton is 9 of 14 from the field and averaging 7.3 points in his past three games.
— Paul Suellentrop