Air Force comes up short in 80-52 loss to No. 21 New Mexico
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Air Force just wanted to keep it close Wednesday night against No. 21 New Mexico, then look for some late breaks. But with leading scorers Tre' Coggins, Max Yon and Marek Olesinski all struggling, the Falcons didn't have much of a chance.
Cameron Bairstow scored 21 points to help the Lobos to an 80-52 victory in their final home game of the season.
"Our three leading scorers at halftime were 2 of 18 (from the field)," Air Force coach Dave Pilipovich. "We're not going to beat many people when our top three scorers are 2 of 18."
And with the crowd whipped into a frenzy on Senior Night, Air Force was no match for the fired-up Lobos (24-5, 15-2 Mountain West).
"In this environment, on senior night, we knew it was going to be a buzz saw," Pilipovich said.
With the 6-foot-9 Bairstow and 7-foot Alex Kirk locking down the interior, there was nowhere for Air Force (11-17, 5-12) to run its backdoor cuts that are the heart of its offense.
"They pressured," Pilipovich said. "They switched everything. We knew that was going to happen. We just didn't play through the switches as well as we normally do. Their ball pressure, their size. And when we did get to the rim, they got shot blockers back there to block shots. . We knew they were there, but we've got the shot blockers in our mind and we missed some uncontested layups. It had so much to do with their execution."
Air Force trailed 27-20 late in the first half before the Lobos closed it with a 7-0 run to take a 34-20 lead. New Mexico pulled away in the second half.
"We wanted to stay in it to win it and have a chance in the second half, but it got away from us in the second half," Pilipovich said. "We just couldn't match their size and athleticism. We had to stay zone and they shot the ball extremely well. If we had gone man, it would have been a 50-point game. We just can't match up with them man to man. We just don't have anybody that big."
Coggins went 3 for 13 from the field while scoring 11 points. He didn't make his first basket until 2 minutes into the second half. Justin Hammonds also scored 11 points, nine in the first half. Olesinski managed six points and Yon four.
Shutting down Air Force's half-court offense was the game plan from the outset, New Mexico coach Craig Neal said.
"Our guys are really getting locked in on the scouting reports," he said. "They're really locked in on what we're trying to take away and what we don't want to give up. They did everything we wanted them to do in the first half and the second half."