Rutgers 53

(6-4, 2-2 away)

Air Force 70

(7-5, 6-0 home)

    6:05 PM ET, December 31, 2004

    Clune Arena, Colorado Springs, Colorado

    1 2 T
    RUTG 20 3353
    AFA 31 3970

    Top Performers

    Rutgers: R. Shields 12 Pts, 2 Reb

    Air Force: T. Keller 12 Pts, 1 Reb, 5 Ast, 1 Stl

    Air Force 70, Rutgers 53

    AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. (AP) -- Methodical as a metronome on offense, pesky and persistent on defense, Air Force added a win over a Big East opponent to its fast-growing list of accomplishments.

    Tim Keller broke out of a slump, making his first four 3-point shots Friday to help the Falcons snap a three-game losing streak with a 70-53 victory over Rutgers.

    Keller finished with 12 points and five assists and Antoine Hood added 12 points for the Falcons (7-5), who ended Rutgers' four-game winning streak and were successful in their first game against a Big East opponent since 1988.

    "To go out and compete, beat a team from the Big East, it shows we're heading in the right direction," center Nick Welch said.

    For years, teams from major conferences had no compelling reason to play Air Force, a long-struggling program that won 22 games last season and made its first NCAA tournament since 1962. Now, as the Scarlet Knights (6-4) found out, there are new reasons to avoid the Falcons.

    Air Force ran its slow-down, Princeton-style offense by the book, rarely letting Rutgers run or get into any kind of flow. On defense, the Falcons made seven steals and forced 18 turnovers.

    "Early in the game, I heard their coach say, `We've got six turnovers already," Welch said. "Anytime you come down and turn the ball over like that, it's got to be frustrating."

    Ricky Shields had 12 points and Quincy Douby had 10 for the Scarlet Knights, who didn't get their first transition bucket until 2 minutes were gone in the second half.

    They also played in constant foul trouble. Freshman Ollie Bailey, who averages 14 points and five rebounds, scored the game's first bucket, then left 5 minutes later with two fouls. He finished with two points and a rebound.

    "The whole thing, we were just out of sync," said Rutgers coach Gary Waters, who grew angry after seeing 10 of the first 12 fouls called against his team. "I thought they fought to hang in there given the circumstances. It's kind of hard to play when you're handcuffed on defense the way we were."

    One of the coach's more impressive accomplishments on this night: Avoiding getting a technical foul as the calls added up against the Knights.

    "I was going to get one," he said. "But I figured all that would do is give them more free throws."

    Keller finished 4-for-5 from 3-point range and the Falcons went 10-for-24 as a team. With the conference season coming up, Keller needed a breakthrough. He was 8-for-36 over the last six games.

    "Tonight, it was pretty open," Keller said. "It felt good to shoot them and finally see them go in."

    Most of Air Force's 3-point attempts came with the shot clock in single digits, which not only nullified Rutgers' zone defense, but demoralized the Scarlet Knights, too.

    Air Force held Rutgers to 20 points in the first half, and though the pace picked up a bit in the second, the Knights didn't really start running and scoring until after they had fallen behind by 16 with about 5 minutes left.

    They fell behind by double digits with 5 minutes left in the first half and never got it below that.

    Several of the Falcons thought this was their best performance of the season.

    Asked about that assessment, coach Chris Mooney said, "Yeah, there's a good possibility this was our most complete game."

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    Team Stat Comparison

    Points 53 70
    FG Made-Attempted 18-40 (.450) 24-48 (.500)
    3P Made-Attempted 6-14 (.429) 10-24 (.417)
    FT Made-Attempted 11-13 (.846) 12-15 (.800)
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 19 (0/0) 13 (0/0)
    Largest Lead 2 19

    2004-05 Season

    » Dec 31, 2004 @AFA 70, RUTG 53Recap