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The Falcons have a big game on Sunday versus Norfolk State , and they will have a lot of pressure on them not to lose two straight games at Clune to non-conference opponents. I can't even remember when Air Force has lost two in a row at home, but the stats guys say the Falcons have won 43 of 45 non-conference games going back to December 2001. The Falcons will also have the pressure of trying to reverse some negative trends that we've all seen in the first five games of the season.
The first negative trend is turnovers. The Falcons took care of the ball pretty well against their non-Div 1 opponents. But they had 13, 14, and 20 turnovers against Cal State Bakersfield, Wofford and Stanford. They lost two of those games. In addition, less than half of those turnovers were steals by the opponents (7, 7, and 8 respectively). Getting the turnovers down to the 10-12 range is a must for the rest of the season.
The second negative trend is defending the three point line. So far this season, the Falcons have had someone go lights out from the arc against them in every game. First it was Justin Avalos and Cameron Burney from Western State who went a combined 10-18 from three and scored 20 and 18 points respectively. Next to light up the Falcons was Patrick Carlson from Cal State Bakersfield, 5-10 from three, 21 points. Not to be outdone, little Div III school UCCS had Nick Weaver go 4-9 with 22 pts and Scott Sublousky went 4-8 for 14 points. Next it was the career night by Wofford's Junior Salters, who went into the game with the Falcons averaging 9 points and came out shooting 7-13 from three and had 28 points overall. Finally, Anthony "He's Got The" Goods from Stanford, lit up the Falcons early in the game on Wednesday night and finished 5-12 from the arc with 20 points in only 25 minutes. Granted, some of these have been NBA threes, and a couple of shots have even banked in, but defending the arc is something the coaching staff hopefully worked on yesterday and today.
Next the Falcons need to manage the pace of the game better. The Falcons are averaging 68.8 points per game (opponents 68.2). Now granted, some of that is because they beat UCCS 86-65, but the Falcons have to cut back on what is race-horse basketball for them and get themselves and their opponents back in the high 50s and low 60s. Part of that is defense, but part is working the offense for not only a good shot, but a better shot. If that means they get some shot clock violations during the game, so be it. The coaching staff needs to work on this, too.
Finally, Coach Reynolds has to find the right words to get his young team on track without getting down on themselves. Case in point, Taylor Stewart got off to a great start in the first three games, he but took some quick shots in the Wofford game that didn't go down (1-6 and 0-2 from three) and rightfully got debriefed and benched. The next night he went 0-4 and 0-1 from the arc in only 17 minutes against Stanford. Hopefully, it won't affect Taylor for the long term, and that he gets back to "normal" at Clune on Sunday. The Falcons are going to need him this year. However, a similar thing seemed to happen a lot to Matt Holland last year, and only now as a senior, and one of only four players with experience, has he emerged as the shooting threat a lot of us thought he could be. Yogi Berra said baseball is 90% mental and 50% physical. The coaching staff needs to work with the entire team on that 90% mental part, without letting the Falcons get down on themselves.