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Air Force has SDSU’s number in Clune Arena

by Matt Kenyon

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David slays Goliath again.

For the second straight year, the No. 22 San Diego State men’s basketball team watched cadets and fans storm the court after the U.S. Air Force knocked off the Aztecs 70-67.

Last season at the Clune Arena, the No. 13 Aztecs lost by two points to an Air Force team that won only three conference games last season. This year, the No. 22 Aztecs were victims of a 3-point loss.

The loss gives the Aztecs a 4-3 conference record, good enough for a tie for third place.

Junior guard Jamaal Franklin, who led all scorers with 25 points, and senior guard James Rahon both missed game-tying 3-pointers in the final minute.

The polls picked Air Force to finish last in the Mountain West Conference in the preseason. Unfortunately for the Aztecs, Air Force took that as a challenge.

“We have some great teams in this league, but ninth? Come on!” Air Force head coach Dave Pilipovich told CBS Sports Saturday as he basked in the Falcons’ victory. “I joke that there were a couple of guys that picked us 10th – and we’re in a nine-team league. We constantly remind ourselves: This is what people think of us.”

“To win a game like this you have to make plays. You have to get a lucky bounce on a play and they had one more than we did,” SDSU head coach Steve Fisher said. “We still had an opportunity, but we didn’t get it.”

The Falcons won their fifth straight game at home and now own a home record of 10-1 this season, while the Aztecs lost their second game in 10 contests against Air Force.

The Falcons went on a 19-2 run to take a 59-47 lead to counter Franklin’s 18 second-half points.

“Franklin’s a good player,” Fisher said. “You play to your strength and make your opponent do something different to stop what they’re doing and he made plays the last 10 or 12 minutes that allowed us to fight our way back in.”

The Aztecs’ shooting continued to struggle as they only hit 2-of-19 from behind the arc. Yet despite holding a 15-5 offensive rebound advantage, the Aztecs could not fend off the Falcons.

“Our strength for us, against Air Force should be offensive rebounding,” Fisher said. “I believe we had 17 or 16 last year and got beat by two points. That was one of the things we talked about that should be a huge plus for us. It was, but it wasn’t quite enough.”

Sophomore forward Marek Olesinski scored a career-high 8 points for the Falcons as Air Force’s bench outscored the SDSU bench 23-6.

“We got beat today,” Franklin said. “I always say, when I’m on the court, I’m enemies with everyone I play against, but after the game you have to show good sportsmanship and give credit when it is due.”

The Aztecs face off against Boise State on Wednesday at Viejas Arena to wrap up the first eight games of conference play.

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