Air Force v UNLV

Air Force’s 2-0 start in the Mountain West, and why you need to know Tre Coggins

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Air Force was not expected to be the worst team in the Mountain West this season. That honor was bestowed upon San Jose State, a team making their debut in the conference while coming off of a 9-20 season as a member of the WAC.

But the Falcons were still picked 10th in a league of 11 teams, and rightfully so. They went 8-8 in league play last year and returned around 20% of their scoring. Most notably, starting point guard Todd Flethcer and all-MWC scoring guard Michael Lyons both graduated. What was left for head coach Dave Pilipovich was a group of last season’s role players, with holes in the lineup getting filled with freshmen.

To make matters worse, three key members of the Air Force rotation missed time early in the season. Starting forward Justin Hammonds took a leave of absence from the team to work on his academics and sat out two games already this year while leading rebounder Kamryn Williams and DeLovell Earls both missed extended periods of time to start the season.

And, ironically enough, that may be the biggest reason that the Falcons have started the MWC season 2-0 with wins over Utah State and at UNLV.

That sounds convoluted, but it’s quite simple, really.

“Because [our veterans] didn’t play early, we had other players that we hard to play,” head coach Dave Pilipovich told in a phone interview. “That meant more minutes for Tre Coggins, Max Yon, Marik Olesinski. Some guys off the bench. That’s given them some experience heading into conference play.”

“Now those guys have come back and have given us more leadership on the floor. But you can’t substitute for experience.”

Coggins has made the most of his opportunity, turning himself into arguably the most improved player in the league. As a freshman playing behind Fletcher, the 6-foot-2 Coggins averaged just 2.4 points in a little more than 10 minutes per game. This season, he’s playing nearly 35 minutes a night and scoring 16.7 points while shooting 43.2% from beyond the arc.

Not even the coaching staff saw that coming.

“We knew he had a chance to be a lead guard for us and have some success, but to the point he’s having it? No. His scoring ability has surprised us,” Pilipovich said, crediting the experience of learning from Fletcher as a freshman and witnessing Lyons’ work habits first-hand. “In the preseason, we threw the ball to him in the first practice and said, ‘this is your team now.'”

And while Coggins has taken advantage of the opportunity, he hasn’t been alone.

Both Yon and Olesinski have seen their scoring jump by more than 10 points-per-game while combining to hit 40 threes on the season, shooting better than 38% from beyond the arc. With those three playing well, the return of Hammonds, Williams and Earls could not have come at a more perfect time.

That’s a huge part of the reason for this 2-0 in league play, but there’s more at play.

You see, Air Force runs a Princeton-style offense. That makes them one of the toughest teams in the conference to prepare. You can watch it on film and you can practice against your second team running through the sets, but until you’ve seen it in person, it’s difficult to truly understand just how hard it is to guard a team running the Princeton.

The game against Utah State was the first for the Aggie’s as a member of the MWC. UNLV, as talented as they are, has a roster full of new additions. That, according to Pilipovich, played as much of a role in the wins as AFA’s effort and execution did.

“We can catch people off guard,” he said.

And not just opposing teams. Air Force picked off a couple of the MWC’s big boys last season, but a 1-7 performance in league games on the road cost them dearly. The Falcons are already 1-0 on the year away from Clune Arena, picking up that win at the Thomas & Mack Center, only the second time AFA has done that is 22 years.

Said Pilipovich with a laugh, “they’re young enough that they don’t know better.”

Iona’s A.J. English, Davidson’s Jack Gibbs both go for 40-plus in wins

Jack Gibbs
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Two of the best guards in the country went absolutely bananas on Tuesday night as Iona senior A.J. English and Davidson junior Jack Gibbs had huge nights.

English dropped 46 points and went 13-for-19 from the 3-point line as the Gaels raced past Fairfield. The Iona star went 15-for-25 from the field and also had eight assists in the win.

Not to be outdone, Gibbs started Davidson’s game against Charlotte by going 14-for-14 from the field. Finishing 14-for-17 for the game, Gibbs had 25 points by halftime and 39 points at the under-12-minute timeout in the second half before deferring to teammates in a blowout win.

Steph Curry and his parents were at the game watching Davidson play as Gibbs became the first Wildcat to go for 40 since the former NBA MVP in 2009.

The 40-point efforts for both English and Gibbs were the first of their college basketball careers, and given the way both have scored the past two seasons, it’s not out of the question that this could happen again.

LATE NIGHT SNACKS: Michigan gets nice road win; multiple 40-point games

Caris LeVert
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Michigan 66, N.C. State 59: Playing without starting point guard Derrick Walton Jr. in the second half, the Wolverines still played well enough to win on the road in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Caris LeVert played a tremendous overall floor game to finish with 18 points, nine rebounds and seven assists while Duncan Robinson came off the bench to hit five 3-pointers and finish with 17 points.


A.J. English, Iona: Iona was able to run past Fairfield as the senior guard had 46 points and made 13 3-pointers in the win. English also tallied eight assists as he went 15-for-25 from the field and 13-for-19 from 3-point range.

Jack Gibbs, Davidson: The junior guard had 25 points by halftime and he went 14-for-14 before finally missing a field goal in the second half. Gibbs finished with 41 points in total in the win over Charlotte as he was 14-for-17 from the field.

Robert Hatter, Cornell: The junior guard helped the Big Red to a win over Siena as Hatter had 32 points and six assists to go along with three rebounds and three steals.

D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, Georgetown: The Hoyas earned an easy home win over Maryland-Eastern Shore as the senior guard went for 30 points on 10-for-16 shooting.


  • Another big game for Wayne Selden Jr. as he had 18 points, six rebounds and four assists to lead No. 4 Kansas to a big win over Loyola (MD). In his debut, Cheick Diallo went 6-for-8 from the field for 13 points, six rebounds and three blocks.
  • Abdel Nader had 21 points and Jameel McKay had 15 points and 19 rebounds to lead No. 5 Iowa State past North Dakota State.
  • No. 8 Villanova won a road game in Philly as they defeated Saint Joseph’s, 86-72. Kris Jenkins and Josh Hart each finished with 18 points while Ryan Arcidiacono had 17 points.
  • Virginia was able to win on the road at Ohio State without London Perrantes as Malcolm Brogdon had 22 points and six rebounds. The Buckeyes have lost four consecutive games.


  • Quality blowout win for Florida as they easily dispatched Richmond. John Egbunu finished with 17 to pace the Gators while Dorian Finney-Smith had nine points, 13 rebounds, six assists and three blocks.
  • Northwestern outlasted Virginia Tech in overtime as Bryant McIntosh had 19 points and Tre Demps finished with 17.
  • Georgia Tech defeated Wofford at home as Adam Smith led with 16 points for the Yellow Jackets.
  • Georgia needed 23 points from J.J. Frazier and 21 points from Yante Maten to outscore Oakland in a close win.
  • Moses Kingsley had 21 points and 10 rebounds as Arkansas ran past Northwestern State.
  • B.J. Tyson had 15 points and nine rebounds to help lead East Carolina past Florida Atlantic.
  • Nice win for William & Mary over Old Dominion as Omar Prewitt had 18 points and seven rebounds.
  • Ohio got past Marshall as guard Jaaron Simmons had 25 points, six assists and five rebounds.
  • Shane Rector had the game-winning free throws to lead Utah State over Missouri State.
  • Arkansas-Little Rock got a win over Central Arkansas as Marcus Johnson Jr. had 28 points.
  • Aaron Cosby had 26 points and went 8-for-15 from the field to lead Western Kentucky to a win over Eastern Kentucky.
  • D.J. Balentine had 26 points and eight assists as Evansville ran by Alabama State.
  • UMKC had a home win over Tennessee-Martin as Martez Harrison had 24 points, five rebounds and five assists.