Air Force coach Dave Pilipovich had big news at his press conference Monday.
“We just got a call from Nike,” he told the assembled reporters. “We’re getting new uniforms. So we play the Runnin’ Rebels on Wednesday. We’re going to be the Runnin’ Falcons. One hundred points, how about that? There have been sometimes three games we haven’t scored 100.”
Pilipovich was kidding, but his offense against New Mexico on Saturday was no joke. The Falcons won 100-92, hitting the century mark for the first time in conference play in school history.
Now UNLV (18-7, 7-5 Mountain West) will try to slow down Air Force (10-13, 4-7) when the teams meet at 7 p.m. at the Thomas & Mack Center. The Rebels are 14½-point favorites in a game that will televised on AT&T SportsNet.
Even with the offensive outburst, Air Force ranks 10th among the conference’s 11 teams in scoring at 69.3 points per game.
That’s much closer to the Air Force team UNLV saw on Jan. 10, when the Rebels went to Colorado and won 81-76. UNLV coach Marvin Menzies said the defensive game plan wouldn’t focus as much on what the Falcons accomplished against New Mexico.
“I think you’ve got to look at the body of work that they present and be ready to guard that whole body of work,” Menzies said. “They’re getting better and they’re trending up, and we are as well. It should be a recipe for a good game.”
Air Force enters the rematch off back-to-back home victories. In addition to New Mexico, the Falcons defeated Colorado State 78-73 on Feb. 6.
But this is a challenging week for the Falcons, who after playing at UNLV will travel to Boise State (20-5, 10-3) on Saturday.
“Two really good teams on the road,” Pilipovich said. “I think people in the Mountain West conference have been hearing us, and we’re barking a little bit. I guess we’ve got to go bite somebody, beat one of these teams on the road, a second- or third-place team, so let’s go do it.”
In UNLV, Pilipovich said going against the frontcourt of Brandon McCoy and Shakur Juiston will be an especially difficult challenge. McCoy averages 17.6 points and 10 rebounds and Juiston is at 15 and 9.9. They have combined for 24 double-doubles.
“I saw them beat (UNR) last week, and my stomach was turning,” Pilipovich said. “I saw them have a 21-point lead on Wyoming, be down by one with 15 minutes in the game and come back and get another 14-point lead. They have two guys (McCoy and Juiston) who will play in the NBA. So how we do contain them? So how do we stop them?”
Smith return unlikely
Menzies wasn’t optimistic about whether junior wing Anthony Smith would return. Smith was suspended indefinitely Jan. 23 for breaking team rules. “The longer things go, the more probability would be that he won’t return,” Menzies said. “But we haven’t made a final decision on that yet.”
■ Who: Air Force at UNLV
■ Where: Thomas & Mack Center
■ When: 7 p.m. Wednesday
■ TV/Radio: AT&T SportsNet; KWWN (1100 AM, 100.9 FM)
■ Line: UNLV -14½; total 156½