AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. (AP) -- Some lessons on the basketball
court are more enjoyable to learn than others, such as how to
handle a big lead against a good opponent you know will make a run
of its own.
Air Force passed such an exam Thursday night when Antoine Hood
scored 22 points and Dan Nwaelele got 20 in leading the Falcons to
their 11th straight win, a 75-59 rout of Brigham Young in their
Mountain West Conference opener.
The Falcons built an early 26-point lead that BYU never could
cut below 12 in the second half.
"We came out on fire, that gave us a lead we didn't expect,"
said Jacob Burtschi, who scored 14 points and set the tone for the
blowout by sinking his first five shots, two of them from
Under first-year coach Jeff Bzdelik, Air Force (13-1) is off to
its best start in school history and won for the 34th time in its
last 35 games at Clune Arena. Brigham Young, also led by a new
coach in Dave Rose, fell to 8-4.
Nobody expected the Falcons to jump out to such a big lead and
Bzdelik certainly didn't expect the lead to stay so big for very
"BYU's a great basketball team," he said. "They're good. They
are really good and we knew they'd come back. They are too talented
for us to have that kind of lead and sustain it. So, we knew they'd
come back and yeah, there's always going to be rough spots. But you
can't play a perfect game and you try to limit as many of those
rough spots as possible.
"In other words, you're striving for perfection, but it's not
going to be there."
Hood said playing with a big lead against a good team is never
"It's challenging because that mentality a lot of teams have
trouble with, no matter what level of basketball you're playing,"
Hood said. "When a team that's good comes in and they're not on
all cylinders like they usually are, you're never going to just put
them away because you know they're going to just keep coming at
you, keep coming at you."
Every time the Cougars made a run, the Falcons had an answer,
especially from Nwaelele, who scored 17 of his 20 points after
Burtschi scored 12 of his 14 before halftime.
"My goodness gracious, they played good from the start," Rose
So well that the Cougars couldn't make up for it even with so
much time left.
"We didn't have enough guys playing well," Rose said. "In
earlier games, we've had eight, nine playing well. Tonight, only a
handful. A handful was not enough to get back in this one and
The Cougars averaged nearly 79 points in their non-conference
schedule but ran into trouble against Air Force, which has the
stingiest defense in the country, allowing an average of 52.3
The Falcons led 42-23 at halftime and it was only that close
because the Cougars scored the last seven points, including a
3-pointer by Young and a buzzer-beater by Rashaun Broadus.
Led by Burtschi, the Falcons raced out to a 32-11 lead by
sinking 12 of their first 18 shots and going 7-for-11 from beyond
the arc. Air Force inevitably cooled off, but BYU couldn't
capitalize because the Cougars' own shooting didn't get any better.
They shot just 36 percent from the field to Air Force's 56 percent.
The Cougars opened the second half with an 8-2 run with Burtschi
and Nwaelele both on the Falcons' bench with three fouls, pulling
to 44-31. Tim Anderson's 3-pointer ended the drought for Air Force,
and a Hood breakaway made it 49-31. Hood's 3-pointer with eight
minutes left gave the Falcons a 60-41 lead.
BYU had one run left, pulling to 63-51 on Mike Rose's 3-pointer
with 5:54 remaining. Hood, however, sank two free throws and fed
Burtschi for an easy bucket and Nwaelele's 3-pointer made it 70-53.
"We got our composure too late to overcome their great start,"
Dave Rose said.
Ben Simmons' versatile game bears a strong resemblance to Draymond Green.
The NBA draft is Thursday night (7 ET, ESPN/WatchESPN), and trade talk is picking up. Chad Ford dishes his latest intel on how the draft will go and which teams will make deals.
Jemele Hill and Michael Smith discuss Tracy McGrady's comments on Ben Simmons' standoffish demeanor. Hill wonders if the "LeBron label" has impacted Simmons for the worse.