LARAMIE -- Air Force’s football team isn’t the only one at the service academy with an offense that can cause headaches for the opposition.
Wyoming has to figure out its own offense, but it’s the other end of the floor where the Cowboys may be tested the most when the teams play their Mountain West opener Wednesday at the Arena-Auditorium. Wyoming has been one of the stingiest defensive teams in the league through the first month of the season, but Wyoming coach Allen Edwards said he’s glad his team has had a full week since its last game to prepare for an offense that’s different than anything the Cowboys have seen to this point.
“It’s given me a lot more time, especially with a team like Air Force because they’re different in a sense of Princeton play,” Edwards said. “And having some younger guys that haven’t gone against Princeton action and trying to get them to understand that it goes defensive principles to make that adjustment.”
Like the football team’s triple option, the Princeton-style offense that Air Force (3-5) has run for years under veteran coach David Pilipovich isn’t one the opposition is used to seeing. It implements a variety of screens and backcuts in the halfcourt that can test teams’ patience by usually forcing them to defend for the entire shot clock.
The Falcons have attempted the fourth-fewest shots in the league but have been efficient with a field-goal percentage of 45.7 -- fifth-highest in the conference. Senior forward Lavelle Scottie leads three players averaging double figures for Air Force at 13.1 points per game.
Only San Diego State is allowing fewer points in the MW than Wyoming (59.9). The Cowboys (3-5) are also third in the field-goal percentage defense (38.5), but Edwards said his team will have to play with discipline and active hands if it wants to disrupt the Falcons’ sets.
“We have to be on edge because a lot of the offense tries to get you to relax,” Edwards said. “There’s things when they’re doing it, they look as if they’re just not doing anything. Then when you relax, bam, a cut. Bam, a flare (screen). Bam, a slip. All of those things happen at once, so the biggest thing to our guys is that you have to be thinking what’s next? Because there’s never nothing going on.”
Wyoming will have to be particularly aware of where Scottie and stretch big Ryan Swan are after both had career days against the Cowboys last season. Scottie made 15 of 20 shots on his way to 34 points in the first matchup while Swan, who’s averaging 10.4 points, hurt the Cowboys inside and out for 37 points on 13 of 17 shooting in the rematch back in March. The Falcons swept the season series by a combined 13 points, though Edwards said the Cowboys won’t play nearly as much zone as they did in both games when Wyoming was trying to conserve energy for a rotation that was whittled to seven scholarship players at one point late in the season.
“And because we had to play a lot of zone, it probably played into some of their strengths,” Edwards said. “ Scottie is very exceptional mid-range shooter, and he proved that down at their place. And then Swan made a bunch of corner 3s against us in the zone, but with what we have, we’re playing man and mixing up some zone. But more man.”
Wyoming may again be without forward Tyler Morman, who's yet to play in a game this season as he continues to go through concussion protocol. Edwards said he hoped the 6-foot-9, 220-pounder would be back for Saturday’s game against New Mexico at the latest.