GAME NOTES: Playing in the postseason for just the seventh time in program history, the Air Force Falcons find themselves matched up against the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors in the first round of the 2013 CollegeInsider.com Tournament at the Stan Sheriff Center in Honolulu on Wednesday night.
Air Force finished in the sixth spot in the Mountain West Conference standings with a record of 8-8. Considering the top-five programs in the MWC all made it to the NCAA Tournament, the Falcons should be proud of themselves for staying so close to the elite squads in the league. Unfortunately, the team struggled down the stretch with just three wins in the final nine games of the regular season, and then bowed to UNLV during the MWC Tournament at the Thomas & Mack Center, 72-56, a week ago.
As for Hawaii, which this season began play in the Big West Conference after spending quite a bit of time in the Western Athletic Conference, it comes into the meeting with a record of 17-14 overall and 10-8 in league play. The program dropped the last two games of the regular season versus Cal Poly and Cal State Northridge, and was then ushered out of the Big West Tournament last week by UC Irvine in the quarterfinals, 71-60.
In 2011, the Falcons took part in this event and advanced to the second round before being taken out by Santa Clara, the eventual champion, by a score of 88-75. That same year, Hawaii hosted a pair of games in this tourney, first defeating Portland in the opening round and then bowing to San Francisco.
In terms of the all-time series between these programs, former colleagues in the WAC between 1981-1997, the Rainbow Warriors are ahead by a count of 24-13 and have won 15 of the 17 meetings played in Honolulu. However, the most recent matchup took place more than 15 years ago with Hawaii posting an 87-63 triumph at home.
The Falcons enter the postseason with a couple of problems with key players, the most important being a sprained right knee suffered by leading scorer Michael Lyons (18.3 ppg) who suffered the injury versus UNLV in the most recent outing. The loss of Lyons means Air Force doesn't have a single, active double-digit scorer to lean on, the closest on that list being Mike Fitzgerald (9.7 ppg) and Todd Fletcher (9.6 ppg), the latter being the top 3-point threat for the squad with 45.5 percent accuracy and also pacing the group with 112 assists. The other issue is the status of Taylor Broekhuis (8.2 ppg, 3.8 rpg) who is one of the top men on the glass but is dealing with a head injury that has him listed as questionable for this bout.
Air Force has consistently been a weak team when it comes to rebounding the basketball, but the same cannot be said for the Rainbow Warriors, particularly this season with an average of close to 39 boards per contest. Vander Joaquim (14.2 ppg) leads the way in that department with his 8.4 rpg and Christian Standhardinger comes in second with 7.9 ppg which, when teamed with his 15.7 ppg means he is a potential double-double every time he takes the floor. Hauns Brereton (10.1 ppg) can also hit the boards and has been known to knock down a few 3-pointers this season, but the more favorable option out on the perimeter for Hawaii is Brandon Jawato (6.1 ppg) who has knocked down 42.2 percent of his opportunities. Directing the offense on the floor is Jace Tavita (3.2 ppg) who has no problem sacrificing his own offensive potential in order to hand out close to six assists per contest.
What the Falcons have to worry about, above everything else of course, is being dominated on the glass which is almost a forgone conclusion given how strong Hawaii is in the paint. Without the services of Lyons, this might be 40 minutes that Air Force would rather forget.
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