As expected, Air Force lost to New Mexico this afternoon. But to their credit, the outmatched Falcons at least made the No. 1-seeded Lobos scratch and claw their way to a 75-69 win in the quarterfinals of the Mountain West Conference tournament.
Las Vegas didn’t think this game would be close and favored New Mexico by 17.5 points. After all, the Lobos are ranked eighth in the country. They haven’t lost a game since Jan. 9 and were 28-3 going into the game.
On the other hand, Air Force won only one regular season game in MWC play this year, one year after going winless in the conference during the regular season. The Falcons won the MWC tourney play-in game yesterday, shutting down Wyoming in a 59-40 win, but had lost nine straight going into that game.
So today on less than 24 hours of rest, Air Force players strapped their shoes on and took the floor with a New Mexico squad primed to run them out of the gym. But it didn’t happen.
Air Force trailed by seven at halftime and pulled to within one point midway through the second half. New Mexico eventually opened up an 11-point lead late in the game, only to see the Falcons — led by a Tom Fow 3-pointer — cut the lead back to back to five.
New Mexico coach Steve Alford took his hat off to Air Force after the game.
“I think [Air Force coach] Jeff [Reynolds] in the last two to three weeks has done more with his team than anybody in this league,” Alford said to The (Colorado Springs) Gazette after the game. “You’ve seen it coming. They have played really hard. Their young guys are getting more confident.”