Colorado Springs, CO – Michael Lyons drained six three- high 27 points to go with four steals as Air ranked San Diego State, 58-56, on Saturday.
Max Yon finished with 10 points, while Mike Fitzgerald totaled seven points and seven rebounds for the Falcons (13-11, 3-7 MWC), who improved to 2-1 under new head coach Dave Pilipovich and have won two straight since dropping seven in a row.
"We controlled tempo and defended for the most part. This is a great afternoon," Pilipovich said. "It makes these kids happier and hungry, knowing night in and night out that we can play with anybody as long as we play Air Force basketball and that's taking good shots, passing up good shots for better shots and defending on the other end and playing as a unit."
Chase Tapley paced the Aztecs (20-6, 6-4) with 17 points and nine rebounds, while Tim Shelton contributed a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds. Xavier Thames added nine points and five assists for San Diego State, which has dropped three straight.
With the game tied at 48 and 4:17 to play, Air Force used an 8-0 spurt to take a 56-48 lead, capped by a pair of Yon free throws, with 2:28 to play.
Tapley nailed a jumper to make it 56-50, but Lyons sank 1-of-2 from the stripe at the other end to restore a seven-point lead for the Falcons.
Thames connected on two from the line and then made a layup with 1:24 left to pull SDSU within three.
Following an Air Force timeout, Shelton sank a layup to make it 56-54 with 20 seconds to play.
Following the basket, the Aztecs elected to foul Todd Fletcher with eight seconds to play. Fletcher stepped to the line and made the front end of his two shots, but missed the second one, leaving the Aztecs with a chance to win.
Shelton grabbed the rebound off Fletcher's miss and sent it to Thames. Air Force though, stood tall with excellent defense on the last possession and forced Thames into a tough shot without fouling. Thames' contested three from the top of the arc nicked the front of the rim and fell short, sealing the upset for Air Force.
"It's hard to win anywhere, especially on the road," SDSU head coach Steve Fisher said. "And it is especially hard when you shoot it as poorly as we did. I'm sure Air Force had a lot to do with it, but we have to be able be able to make plays and finish plays."
After a tightly-played first half which featured four ties and four lead changes, the game was tied at 29.
Both teams struggled from the floor in the opening 20 minutes as SDSU shot just 11-of-28, and Air Force countered with an even worse 7-of-20.
Shelton sank 1-of-2 from the line early in the second half to put the Aztecs up 33-29, but Air Force stayed close and a layup by Fitzgerald made it 35-34 with 13 minutes to play.
It remained a one-possession game for the next nine-plus minutes of action and Fitzgerald put home a layup to tie the game at 48.
The teams have split two meetings this season, but despite the loss, the Aztecs hold a 47-21 lead in the all-time series...Air Force shot just 34.8 percent from the floor, while SDSU shot 34.6 percent...San Diego State dominated on the glass, outrebounding the Falcons, 47-27...The Falcons turned 16 SDSU turnovers into 10 points.