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It’s a quarterfinal matchup of the Mountain West Tournament coming to you live from Sin City. The sixth-seeded Air Force Falcons clash with the third-seeded Fresno State Bulldogs Thursday night with the winner advancing to the semifinals. Air Force punched their ticket to the semifinals by rolling past 11th-seeded San Jose State 87-56 in the first round Wednesday night. Fresno State plastered San Jose State 121-81 at home in their regular season finale Saturday. The Bulldogs lead the all-time series 19-7 between the teams but the Falcons claimed a 64-61 road win in the last matchup on February 20.
Air Force Falcons Look to Surprise Bulldogs Again
Air Force cruised past San Jose State to avoid a first-round upset as they knocked off the Spartans to reach the quarterfinals. The Falcons improved their record to 14-17 with the win, though they started slowly. Air Force was down 13-0 3:17 into the game before getting things going. After trailing 15-3, the Falcons ripped off a 25-2 run to take an 11-point edge and didn’t look back en route to the win. After leading by eight at the half, Air Force outscored San Jose State 27-9 to open the second half and blow the game open. The Falcons shot 48.4 percent from the field, including 11 of 30 from three-point range, and won the rebounding battle 45-28. Chris Joyce led Air Force with 20 points in the victory.
Live look-in at Chris Joyce 🔥🔥🔥
20 so far for #5 pic.twitter.com/V0uY3cECtf
— Air Force Men's Hoops (@AF_MBB) March 14, 2019
The Falcons are struggling to put points on the board as they average 68.1 points per game this season. Air Force is grabbing 33.3 rebounds per contest and hands out 13.2 assists per game. The Falcons are average defensively, ranking 193rd in the nation in scoring defense by allowing 72.1 points a night this year. Ryan Swan is second on the team with 12.7 points plus 7.2 rebounds per contest while Lavelle Scottie puts up a team leading 15.6 points plus 5.6 rebounds a night. Chris Joyce, Sid Tomes, A.J. Walker, LeSean Brown, Ameka Akaya, Pervis Louder and Keaton Van Soelen each put up at least 3.8 points a night for the Falcons. Air Force shoots 45.3 percent from the field as a team on the year. The Falcons are knocking down 7.2 three pointers a night while hitting 33.2 percent of their attempts from beyond the arc. Air Force is scuffling at the charity stripe, cashing in only 67.9 percent of their attempts this season.
Fresno State Bulldogs Try to Roll to Fourth Consecutive Triumph
Fresno State crushed San Jose State in an offensive blitzkrieg to finish the regular season with three straight wins. The Bulldogs closed the regular season with a 22-8 overall mark and a 13-5 mark in conference play. Fresno State was tied at 24 with 10:39 to play in the first half but closed the half on a 35-16 run to lead by 19. The Bulldogs were never challenged in the second half as they outscored the Spartans 62-41 to run away with the win. Fresno State shot a scorching 64.5 percent from the floor, including a blistering 23 of 38 from three-point range, and won the rebounding battle 35-24. Deshon Taylor led the Bulldogs with 35 points and eight assists in the win.
— Julia Lopez (@JuliaLopez3) March 10, 2019
The Bulldogs are putting up an average of 77.1 points a game in the early going this season. Fresno State grabs 35.9 rebounds a game while dishing out 14.1 assists per contest. The Bulldogs are 73rd in scoring defense by allowing 67.6 points per game. Braxton Huggins leads the team with 19.3 points per game. New Williams (8.3 points, three boards) and Deshon Taylor (18.4 points, 4.8 assists) are solid scoring options for the Bulldogs. Nate Grimes (11.4 points, 9.4 rebounds), Noah Blackwell, Johnny McWilliams, Christian Gray, Lazaro Rojas, Sam Bittner and Aguir Agau are all key pieces of the rotation for Fresno State. The Bulldogs are shooting 45.5 percent from the field as a team this season. Fresno State shoots 38.5 percent from beyond the arc while splashing 10.7 triples a night. The Bulldogs have been good at the charity stripe, converting 72 percent of their opportunities this season.
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The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
Air Force managed to stop Fresno State on the road in the last meeting but it’s going to be tough sledding in this one. The Falcons are playing their second game in as many nights here and they don’t have a ton of depth to work with in their rotation. Fresno State is prolific from the outside and has a dynamic scoring duo with Huggins and Taylor to lead the way. The Bulldogs are solid on both ends of the floor and that gives them the upper hand in this contest as they advance to the semifinals with a victory here.
Prediction: Fresno State Bulldogs
Full-Game Total Pick
Fresno State has been very effective on both ends of the floor and that’s going to be their calling card going forward in this tournament. The Bulldogs are 69th in scoring offense, 114th in field goal percentage and a sparkling 18th in three-point percentage on the season. That’s going to be a massive challenge for Air Force to try and contain, given that they are 229th in the nation in three-point field goal percentage defense (35.2 percent) this season. The Falcons are going to face a Fresno State team that is 70th in field goal percentage defense (41.8 percent) and 22nd in three-point field goal percentage defense (30.4 percent) on the year. Can Air Force find a way to pick up the win here in order to advance?
Air Force isn’t going to hang 87 points again as that came against an absolutely dreadful San Jose State defense. The Falcons are content to play games in the 60s and low 70s: they have their work cut out for them on both ends of the floor against a tough Fresno State squad. The Bulldogs keep things in check and this one ends up under the number.