Without that trio, the Falcons will continue to force young, inexperienced players to log more minutes than they probably are ready to handle. But that's the reality for Air Force. And if the Falcons want to snap a Mountain West Conference regular-season losing streak that now -- at 20 -- is the longest in the league's history, those players will need to perform beyond their years.
Four freshmen -- guard Michael Lyons, forward/center Taylor Broekhuis, guard/forward Mike Fitzgerald and guard Todd Fletcher -- played a combined 88 minutes in a 73-50 loss to New Mexico on Wednesday but contributed just 15 points on 4-of-23 shooting.
"They've got to grow up," Air Force coach Jeff Reynolds said. "Fast. And they've got to understand that, hey, it's their time. It didn't start out to be that way, but it is now their time."
NEW MEXICO 73, AIR FORCE 50: Three-point shooting was a weapon for New Mexico and a weakness for Air Force. While the Lobos drained 13 of 27 shots from behind the 3-point arc, the Falcons missed 21 of 24 en route to their 20th consecutive Mountain West Conference regular-season loss. Air Force led midway through the first half and trailed by just five early in the second. But sparked by back-to-back 3-pointers from Phillip McDonald, the Lobos went on a 19-6 run to take control.
--By coach Jeff Reynolds' count, Mike McLain is the sixth Air Force player to suffer a concussion this season. And he doesn't have a guess for why that many have occurred.
"Those are issues as a coach that you try to understand that it's part of the game," said Reynolds, "and you try to get your younger kids ready. With that many concussions in one year, and the year's not even over, at this point in time we're trying to focus on the kids that are available and try to put our best foot forward."
--The Falcons have been consistently poor on offense during Mountain West play, averaging 49.25 points per outing. They scored 50 against Texas Christian, 48 against Colorado State, 49 against BYU and then 50 against New Mexico.
--Air Force has lost 10 consecutive Mountain West home games over the past two seasons. The Falcons were 35-5 at home during the 2004-08 conference seasons.
ON THE SPOT: Junior G Evan Washington broke out of a slump against New Mexico. After making just 6 of 23 shots in Air Force's first three Mountain West Conference games, he made 6 of 9 shots against the Lobos. Washington scored 16 points, two more than he scored in his first three league games combined.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We had a lot of open looks, but the ball just didn't go down. Our effort was really good, but the ball just didn't go in the basket. When you shoot 22 percent (in the second half), you're not going to beat too many teams, particularly teams in the top 20." -- Air Force coach Jeff Reynolds, on his team's poor shooting during a 67-49 loss to then-No. 18 Brigham Young.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
SEASON RECAP: Air Force has lost seven of 10 games since its schedule started including names like Washington State and Texas-El Paso and hasn't come close to winning any of its four conference games. It hasn't helped matters that the Falcons have been hard-hit by injuries to go with a dearth of overall talent.
PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters -- F Tom Fow, C Mike McLain, G Michael Lyons, G Todd Fletcher, G Evan Washington. Key Subs -- F Mike Fitzgerald, C Taylor Broekhuis, G Avery Merriex, G Shawn Hempsey, F Derek Brooks, F Zach Bohannon.
TCU 59, Air Force 50
Colorado State 70, Air Force 48
Brigham Young 67, Air Force 49
New Mexico 73, Air Force 50
at Utah, Saturday, Jan. 23
at UNLV, Tuesday, Jan. 26
vs. Wyoming, Saturday, Jan. 30
at San Diego State, Tuesday, Feb. 2
IN FOCUS: Defense was a hallmark of Air Force teams in recent seasons, but the Falcons have struggled to keep teams from scoring of late. On Wednesday, New Mexico put 73 on Air Force and made 13 of 27 3-point shots. The Falcons forced just nine turnovers. "I think we lost the game on the defensive end of it," Air Force coach Jeff Reynolds said. "I think sometimes when you don't make shots, young teams, they don't like to defend."
--Freshman G Mike Fitzgerald entered the New Mexico game as the Falcons' leading scorer in conference games (10.3 points per game). But Fitzgerald, who made a team-best 61.5 percent of his 3-pointers in Air Force's first three league contests, went 0-for-6 from behind the 3-point arc against New Mexico and was held scoreless.
--Freshman F/C Taylor Broekhuis, who had been considered questionable for the game against New Mexico with a hip injury, started and played 19 minutes. Broekhuis scored three points and grabbed four rebounds.
--Senior F Grant Parker (groin) hasn't played since early December and has been sidelined for 10 games entering the Jan. 23 game at Utah.