Feb 16, 2012 - The Associated PressLARAMIE -- A seven-game losing streak, a late-season coaching change and an early 24-10 deficit on the road. It would have been enough for any team to get discouraged. Not Air Force, which rallied, took a nine-point lead with three minutes left and then held on for a 58-53 win on Wednesday night.
Michael Lyons matched his career high with six 3-pointers and scored 24 points to help Dave Pilipovich to his first win as a college head coach. The Falcons improved to 1-1 under Pilipovich, a 25-year assistant who replaced Jeff Reynolds, fired a week earlier.
"Our kids, I think, just finally got to the point, "Enough's enough, we just gotta go play,' "said Pilipovich, adding that Air Force football coach Troy Calhoun offered encouragement last week.
According to Pilipovich, Calhoun told him, "These are outstanding young men and when things get tough, they're going to go back to their training. Their character's going to show."
Air Force took its first lead, 47-45, on a layup by Taylor Broekhuis with 8:23 remaining. Lyons then added his sixth 3-pointer and Mike Fitzgerald sank two free throws to make it 52-45, capping a 12-0 Air Force surge.
Broekhuis finished with 12 points for Air Force (12-11, 2-7 Mountain West).
Adam Waddell had 15 and JayDee Luster 11 for Wyoming (18-7, 4-5).
Wyoming drew within 56-53 on a layup and free throw by Luster with 1:34 left, but he and two teammates missed 3-pointers in the last minute.
Cowboys coach Larry Shyatt said Air Force deserved the win.
"You just saw a group of Air Force players who willed themselves to victory," he said. "We were outplayed, and it really could have been worse."
Broekhuis said the Falcons didn't get discouraged despite falling behind 14-2.
"We knew we were better than 14-2. We knew we could play with these guys," he said.
Lyons, who put in extra time over the weekend working on his shot, finished 9-of-15 from the floor and 6-of-8 from beyond the arc. However, he attributed the win to the Falcons' defense, which held Wyoming to 17 points after halftime.
"Coach got on us for giving them open looks, not getting 50-50 balls," he said. "Second half, we just came out and did both of those things. We locked up on defense, boarded a little better and we hit some shots."
The Falcons' plan was to fight over screens for Wyoming shooters Luke Martinez and Francisco Cruz and underneath screens for Luster, to keep him from penetrating. Martinez and Cruz were averaging more than 25 points combined. Martinez finished with eight points and Cruz seven.
Air Force was 8-of-19 from 3-point range (42 percent) and held Wyoming to 4-of-21 (19 percent).
Pilipovich said the locker room celebration was a wild one.
"We're jumpin.' We're huggin' each other. We're throwin' things," he said. "We may walk home, we're so excited. It's cold out there, but we may walk home."
Wyoming plays at Colorado State Saturday.
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