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Air Force tops Nevada 68-66 behind strong second half

David Calvert || Nevada Athletics Department

The Air Force Falcons snapped a ten-game losing streak versus the Nevada Wolf Pack in a 68-66 victory behind a dominant second-half on Sunday at Lawlor Events Center. Sunday also marked the Falcons’ first ever victory in nine tries inside Lawlor Events Center.

It splits the season series between the two Mountain West foes. Nevada won by 17 in the former matchup Friday.

On Friday, the Pack shot 51.1 percent against Air Force’s 2-3 zone. On Sunday, the tides drastically turned. they hit just 42.6 percent of their shots — 37.5 percent in the second half. Nevada missed its final 12 3-point attempts (the last make came with 4:16 in the first half), hitting only two on 24 attempts, translating to an abysmal 8.3 percent figure. It went 21-for-30 (70 percent) inside the arc.

Air Force shot 54.5 percent in the second half and 48.9 percent on the night. It hit six of its 19 3-point attempts (31.6 percent). The Falcons outscored Nevada 44-33 in the second half.

Sunday’s loss drops Nevada to 6-3 with a 1-1 conference record, while Air Force improves to 3-3 (1-1 MWC).

The pair of games this past weekend was the first showdown between Mountain West opponents this season.

Air Force’s A.J. Walker was dominant. He tallied a career-high 27 points on 11-of-18 shooting, including 2-for-4 from beyond the arc. He also totaled four rebounds, three assists and three steals. Chris Joyce tallied 18 points on 5-of-12 shooting with four rebounds.

Nevada’s Zane Meeks tallied his third double-digit performance this year, leading Nevada with 18 points on 5-of-11 shooting, including 7-of-8 from the charity stripe. He added eight rebounds with a team-high two steals.

Grant Sherfield added 10 points on 4-of-12 shooting. Warren Washington had eight points on a perfect 4-of-4 shooting with a team-high 12 rebounds.

After missing ten free throws in the first meeting, the Falcons knocked down 16-of-18 (88.9 percent) from the free throw line. Its improved mark was very pivotal down the stretch. Nevada shot just 18-of-26 (69.2 percent) from the stripe.

The Pack out-rebounded the Falcons 35-26 on the glass.

Cambridge’s 3-pointer gave Nevada the early 10-4 lead. After locating to the free throw line, Washington found DeAndre Henry for an easy layup. He followed suit with an easy steal-and-score from that extended Nevada’s advantage to 16-10.

The 7-foot Washington scored or assisted on eight of the following 11 points.

A half court feed from Kane Milling to Cambridge for the layup gave the Pack a 29-19 lead with 3:17 to go in the first half, prompting a Falcon timeout.

Sherfield’s contested layup in the waning moments awarded Nevada with a 33-24 halftime lead. It shot 46.7 percent, but knocked down just two of 14 3-point tries (14.3 percent). Air Force hit 44.0 percent of its first half attempts, but went 1-of-8 (12.5 percent) from deep.

The Falcons began the first 3:02 of the second half on a 10-1 run — tying it at 34. Glen McClintock gave the Falcons the 42-39 lead with 13:15 remaining.

Both teams traded free throws throughout the final ten minutes of the second half, when both reached the bonus.

Trailing by as much as eight, Nevada took a 55-54 with 4:38 to go after back-to-back K.J. Hymes baskets at the rim. Air Force re-claimed the lead 59-57 with under two minutes remaining and did not relinquish it for the rest of the game.

The Falcon dagger came from a Nikc Jackson 3-pointer — extending its advantage to 64-59 with :31 seconds remaining. The Pack battled until the clock hit :00, but it was too little, too late.

Up next:

Nevada won’t play again until Dec. 31, when they begin a two-game road set against the New Mexico Lobos.

Air Force’s Dec. 23 contest against Utah Valley was cancelled Sunday. Its next scheduled contest will be at home versus the Utah State Aggies on Dec. 31.

Nevada drops to 6-3 on the season