GAME NOTES: The surging Nevada Wolf Pack aim to shoot down the Air Force Falcons today, as the teams meet for a Mountain West Conference battle at the Lawlor Events Center.
Nevada, which had just four wins through the first 11 games of the season, is now 6-2 in league play thanks in part to a 76-67 victory over Colorado State three nights ago. Just 5-5 at home overall in 2013-14, the Pack has won three of four home dates versus MWC opponents and enters the weekend third in the standings overall.
As for the Falcons, they've had some stretches of strong play this season, but at the moment they are dealing with a three-game slide and defeats in five of the last six outings. The lone win during the stretch was a 77-62 final versus a San Jose State program that is at the bottom of the Mountain West standings.
On Wednesday night, Air Force clashed with Boise State at Taco Bell Arena and was turned away in a 69-58 final. Leading scorer Tre' Coggins (17.4 ppg) did not play against the Broncos and won't be back in action any time soon due to a suspension.
With respect to the all-time series, each team won at home last season, representing the only two battles lodged between them before this weekend.
With Coggins in the lineup at least the Falcons could consider themselves a threat against a team like Boise State, but that wasn't the case in the last outing as the Academy shot only 13-of-23 at the free-throw line and came away with just four offensive rebounds. Max Yon tallied a team-best 15 points, Marek Olesinski pitched in 14, Justin Hammonds 12 points and Kamryn Williams 11 and seven rebounds in the setback.
The absence of Coggins means Yon is the active leading scorer for Air Force with his 13.6 ppg stemming from 46.4 percent shooting from the field and 77.1 percent accuracy at the free-throw line. Yon is also first in assists with 58 over 19 appearances, with many of those going to Coggins. Olesinski (12.4 ppg) and Williams (10.6 ppg) will try to fill the offensive void, not to mention continue to hit the glass in order to keep the Falcons from being abused in the paint.
The Nevada defense showed up and handled the Rams earlier this week, limiting the visitors to just 36.7 percent shooting from the floor and 3-of-18 behind the 3-point line, but still the decision was somewhat close. Deonte Burton scored a team-best 18 points and pulled down seven rebounds, followed by Jerry Evans with 16 points as he converted half of his six chances on the outside. Cole Huff and AJ West both tallied 12 points, the latter adding nine rebounds and four blocked shots.
A career 16.1 ppg scorer who has started all 119 games in which he has appeared, Burton continues to be one of the most lethal offensive weapons in the league with his 21.5 ppg. But in addition to looking for points more often than not, Burton is also responsible for 4.1 rpg and a team-best 3.8 apg for the Pack. Evans checks in with 13.4 ppg and 6.3 rpg, his efforts on the glass second only to West (8.3 ppg) who is pulling down 7.8 rpg at the moment.
Without thinking too much about this one, not having Coggins available put the Falcons at a huge disadvantage and there is almost no way for the visitors to get around that now.
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