Men’s basketball looks for cruicial wins down stretch

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    By Nicholas Goodfellow

    The Cougars travel to the Air Force Academy Saturday Mar. 1 to take on a Falcon team that is hungry for a win.

    The Falcons are currently last place in the Mountain West Conference at 2-11, but both of their wins have come at home.

    “They are very disciplined, they are very smart,” junior Ricky Bower said. “What scares me the most is the importance of each possession, because they hold the ball so much that the number of possessions is very, very low.”

    BYU, on the other hand, started off the season undefeated on the road, at 3-0, but has lost its last two away games to UNLV and Utah.

    The Cougars are currently tied for second place and need a win to stay in contention for a MWC title.

    Junior Joel Gerlach and sophomore Tim Keller lead the Falcons in scoring at 12 and 16 points a game, respectively.

    The last time the Cougars and Falcons met, though, both Gerlach and Keller struggled to get into any rhythm as BYU was able to hold the Falcons to just 10 points in the first half, which was their lowest point total for any one half in school history.

    “I thought we did a nice job of containing their back cuts and contesting shots,” coach Steve Cleveland said after the game on Feb. 3. “There were 10 or 15 shots they missed that they will hit at their place. It will be a different game at Air Force.”

    The Cougars have struggled in their last two road games offensively, shooting just over 40 percent from the field and 25 percent from beyond the arc.

    Senior Travis Hansen and junior Mark Bigelow have been pressured by opposing defenses as of late and have received little offensive support.

    The two said they understand their importance to the team offensively, and realize what they need to do for the team to be successful against Air Force.

    “It”s important for us to be aggressive off the tip, and try to score our points early,” Hansen said.

    BYU needs big games from these two to contend in the MWC, a fact that Cleveland has stressed throughout the year.

    The Cougars are also hoping that junior Rafael Araujo”s 13-point performance against Utah on Monday is just the beginning of a much-awaited resurgence of the big man.

    While the Cougars have to have a win, the Falcons have nothing to lose, and everything to gain Saturday as they look to get just their third win of the season.

    Game time is set for 4 p.m. and can be seen on KSL TV channel 5. It can also be heard on KSL Radio, 1160.

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