Grant Parker played!
Air Force's top player had missed 10 consecutive contests with a serious groin injury before coming off the bench to play 15 minutes against the Utes.
Parker, who was averaging 17.1 points and 7.1 rebounds before the injury, tallied just four points and made only 1 of 5 shots. But the important thing was that he was playing.
Parker, a senior forward, hadn't played since Dec. 8 -- and the rust was evident.
"I think he played exactly like anyone would play who's been out that length of time -- a little hesitant," Falcons coach Jeff Reynolds said after the contest. "But it was good to see him out there and good to have him back."
The loss to Utah was the 21st consecutive conference loss for the Falcons (8-10, 0-5), who had mismatch issues with the taller Utes.
"Their size really bothered us and I thought that we had a lot of open shots that didn't go down," Reynolds said. "We tried to take it to the rim and their size advantage was really bothersome to us in the second half."
--Air Force's 3-point shooting has been atrocious. The Falcons were just 3-of-24 (12.5 percent) against New Mexico and 3-of-14 (21.4 percent) against Utah. Air Force ranks next-to-last in the Mountain West in 3-point shooting at 30.4 percent.
--The Falcons have scored 54 or fewer points in all five Mountain West Conference contests and have topped that total just once (vs. Texas-Pan American) in seven games dating to late December.
ON THE SPOT: Freshman forward Michael Lyons will soon see his minutes go down with Grant Parker back and could eventually lose his starting job. Lyons is playing 23.9 minutes per game with eight starts but is shooting just 39.3 percent from the field while scoring 6.8 points per game. Lyons was force-fed into more minutes with Parker hurt, and the experience could pay big dividends further into Lyons' career.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We lost the game on the defensive end of the floor. Early on, we did a good job of defending the three, but in the second half, some of their threes came out of transition." -- Air Force coach Jeff Reynolds, after a 23-point loss to New Mexico in which the Lobos connected on 13 3-point baskets.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
SEASON RECAP: Junior guard Evan Washington has had the best overall season of any Air Force player, and he re-emerged from a recent slump with 16 points against New Mexico. Washington (11.4 points per game) will be able to play a bit more loosely with top offensive player Grant Parker now back in the mix. Air Force has begun the same freefall that occurred in Mountain West Conference play last season, and the Falcons lack the firepower to stop it.
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.
Brigham Young 67, Air Force 49
New Mexico 73, Air Force 50
Utah 71, Air Force 54
at UNLV, Tuesday, Jan. 26
vs. Wyoming, Saturday, Jan. 30
at San Diego State, Tuesday, Feb. 2
vs. Texas Christian, Saturday, Feb. 6
vs. Colorado State, Tuesday, Feb. 9
IN FOCUS: Air Force will have a good
opportunity to end its conference victory drought when a Wyoming squad missing leading scorer Afam Muojeke limps into town on Jan. 30. Road tilts at UNLV and San Diego State are unlikely to go well.
--Sophomore C Sammy Schafer (concussion) has been sidelined for 15 consecutive games.
--Junior F Derek Brooks started against Air Force, becoming the 11th AFA player to start a game this season.
--Senior C Mike McLain had started every game this season prior to missing the Brigham Young game with a concussion. He came off the bench against New Mexico and Utah after returning from the injury.