Tactical change helps Air Force turn close game into blowout
COLORADO SPRINGS - The scoreboard following the second game of the Reggie Minton Air Force Classic Saturday evening at Clune Arena read: Air Force 86, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs 65.
Never was a score more deceptive.
The Division II Mountain Lions went toe-to-toe with the Division I Falcons before a late tactical change by Air Force made what had been a close contest look like a blowout. For UCCS, though, the result was secondary to the process of building the team for Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference play.
"When you play a Division I game, you always ask: 'did you get better after the game or did you get worse?'" said Caton. "I think we got better."
Of course, that doesn't mean he's satisfied. Far from it.
"I still don't feel like we're really gelling with the inside/outside game or the running game, so we have some things to work on there," he said.
Another thing is dealing with the realities of playing on the road. The Mountain Lions got a lesson in that on Saturday.
"It stinks to learn from losing," said UCCS freshman guard Scott Sublousky, who had 14 points and five rebounds.
After trailing by as many as 15, Frank McCollum and Tommy Klausner each converted offensive rebounds into points and Klausner added a pair of free throws as UCCS went on a 6-0 run to cut an 11-point deficit to five, making it 56-51 with 10:30 remaining in the game.
Air Force answered by making five of its next six field goal attempts, including 3-pointers by Andrew Henke and Matt Holland. But Sublousky had five points and Nick Weaver four over the same span to keep UCCS within reach. With 6:54 remaining, the Falcon lead was a less-than-comfortable 68-60.
That's when Air Force changed tactics. To that point, the Falcons had launched 19 3-point attempts, making eight. But they spent the rest of the game driving hard to the hoop and were rewarded for their efforts. Over their final 11 possessions of the game, the Falcons were put on the foul line eight times.
Additionally, Air Force coach Jeff Reynolds rolled a substitute to the scoretable as the second free throw was being shot on each of those possessions. That caused a stoppage in play after the second free throw was made. Sometimes, the exchange of players included a display of brotherly affection between the incoming and outgoing players that gave the "don't ask, don't tell" policy new clarity.
The purpose of all the delay, of course, was to stall the UCCS running game. To Reynolds' and his players'credit, it worked fabulously. On the eight possessions following the stalls, UCCS had five turnovers and two missed field goal attempts.
The end result was a 21-point margin the hardly reflected the game. Caton, though, wasn't displeased by his team's effort.
"We're doing some good things and we're doing some bad things," said Caton. "The whole trick to the game is doing more good things than bad things.
"We got our turnovers down to 12 against a pretty good defensive team. That's a huge positive for us."
Weaver led UCCS (0-2) with 22 points as he and Sublousky each made four of the Mountain Lions' 11 3-pointers. Jordan McClung had a game-high six assists, while Klausner led UCCS with six rebounds.
Sublousky, a freshman who played his high school ball in Germany, has now taken a world tour of sorts in opponents. UCCS scrimmaged a junior college, played an NAIA and Division I opponent in exhibition games, and then opened the season by playing a top-notch Division II team and Division I Air Force.
"Definitely, I think the speed of the game was different between those (opponents)," he said.
Caton calls Sublousky "A little speed demon" on the court. While that's his strength, harnessing his speed has been his biggest challenge.
"I've learned when to click on and off the turbos," said Sublousky. "That's allowed me to set up the offense a little better and has helped me take better shots."
Holland paced Air Force (3-0) with 22 points and grabbed a game-high nine rebounds. Henke and Taylor Stewart each added 15 and Anwar Johnson had 13.
Both teams will play against Sunday. UCCS will face Texas-Pan American at 2:30 p.m. and Air Force will square off against Wofford at 5 p.m.
UCCS Players/Staff Featured
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