Michael Lyons finished with 20 points, five boards and four assists and Todd Fletcher chipped in with 13 points and five assists as Air Force held serve on their home floor, knocking off No. 22 San Diego State 70-67.
The win was just the third time in 81 tries that Air Force has beaten a ranked opponent. The last time? Last season, when they also beat the Aztecs at home.
More importantly, however, Air Force moves to 5-2 in the rugged Mountain West Conference after winning their fifth straight game, putting them all alone into second place for the time being. Who saw that coming three weeks ago? It may be a short-lived tenure near the top of the league standings, however, as the Falcons have a brutal stretch coming up — at New Mexico, at Nevada, Colorado State, UNLV, at Boise State and Wyoming, with a return trip to San Diego State and a second game against the Lobos to close out the conference season.
Those are eight games where the Falcons are susceptible to getting knocked off, but such is life in this league. And if Dave Pilipovich’s team has done anything during the past month, they’ve proven capable of competing in this conference.
You see, Air Force plays a difficult style to matchup with. Pilipovich runs a Princeton-esque system with his own wrinkles added, but the bottom line is that the Falcons shoot a lot of threes and throw a lot of backdoor passes. They like to get up and down the floor more than in year’s past as well, and if there’s anything that’s more difficult than defending a Princeton-style offense, it’s trying to do so when your defense doesn’t have a chance to get set.
This is a group that has to be taken seriously.
It may be too early to call them a legitimate contender — it’s not a stretch to say that their gaudy league record is partially a result of a friendly schedule thus far.
Air Force heads to Albuquerque on Wednesday with first place in the MWC on the line. The fact that’s actually a true statement is a testament to how far that program has come.
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.