Warrior Insider

The Inside Source for Hawaii Men's Basketball

A quick look at Air Force

Hawai’i and Air Force were both surprised to be invited to the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament, but for different reasons.

While the Warriors were not expecting any postseason invite, the Falcons were aiming higher.


“Disappointing that we weren’t selected to play in the NIT,” Air Force head coach Dave Pilipovich said. “We were hoping for that, obviously. We thought that we did enough work during the season.”

Hawai’i is 17-14 overall and finished fifth in the Big West Conference. Air Force is 17-13 and finished sixth in the Mountain West Conference – the top-rated conference in the country. The Falcons were reportedly one of the “first teams out” of the selection process for the 32-team NIT.

That left them with a CIT bid, and they will face the Warriors in a first-round game at the Stan Sheriff Center on Wednesday night (7:00 p.m.).

The Falcons will be without their top player in senior guard Michael Lyons, who suffered a knee injury in the Mountain West Conference Tournament. Lyons leads the Mountain West in scoring at 17.7 points per game, and this will be the Falcons’ first game without him this season. He underwent surgery this week and will not travel with the team.

“I think the injury to Mike played a factor in that, maybe,” Pilipovich said of not getting the NIT bid. “Us not being at full strength, we’re still a very good basketball team without Mike. You’re hoping that you’re rewarded on your body of work you did all year, and not on an injury at the end of the season.”

With Lyons, Air Force was a dangerous team all season. The Falcons went 8-8 in the Mountain West regular season, with home victories over four of the top five teams (New Mexico, UNLV, San Diego State and Boise State).

Air Force did play one Big West team during the regular season – a 61-53 road win at UC Riverside on December 22. Riverside finished last in the Big West, and the Warriors went 2-0 against the Highlanders.


Without Lyons, the Falcons will likely utilize a more balanced attack. The starting five will likely be Todd Fletcher (6-2, senior) and Kyle Green (6-2, senior) at guards, DeLovell Earls (6-5, sophomore) and Mike Fitzgerald (6-6, senior) at forwards, and Taylor Broekhuis (6-10, senior) at center.

Among that group, Fitzgerald is the leading scorer at 9.7 points per game, and top rebounder at 3.9 per game. Fletcher is contributing 9.6 points and 3.7 assists per game, and leads the team with 55 3-pointers. Broekhuis is averaging 8.2 points and 3.8 rebounds per game, and has a .558 field goal percentage.

The Falcons run a speedier version of the pass-first Princeton offense, and they led the Mountain West in field goal percentage at .475 (which was also ranked 19th in the nation).

Pilipovich said he expects to see a lot of zone defenses from Hawai’i because of the short preparation time for the game.

When asked what he knows about Hawai’i, Pilipovich said: “They have two really good post players. A guard, Jace Tavita, who played at Utah when Utah was in the Mountain West, so we played against him. Also, a young man who transferred from Northern Colorado who’s a shooter for them, (Hauns) Brereton.”

Brereton went to Western Nebraska Community College after Northern Colorado, and was recruited by Air Force before choosing Hawai’i.

The Falcons, who are based in Colorado Springs, Colo., will be making their longest trip of the season, in terms of air miles, to get to Hawai’i. Earlier this season, they traveled to non-conference tournaments at South Carolina and Florida. Air Force is 3-10 in road games and 1-1 in neutral site games.

The Falcons will also have to deal with the four-hour time difference, and the change in climate. Colorado Springs is situated more than 6,000 feet above sea level, and temperatures were in the 40s there on Tuesday.

In any case, the Falcons apparently have no problem being labeled a favorite not just for Wednesday’s game, but for the entire CIT.

“We feel that we’re coming from one of the better conferences in the country, and now in this field, probably looked upon as one of the better teams in the event so we have to have that chip on our shoulder,” Pilipovich said. “We’re disappointed in one area, but grateful, and want to show people what we’re capable of doing.”

GAME INFORMATION: Hawai’i (17-14, 10-8 Big West) vs. Air Force (17-13, 8-8 Mountain West)
When: Wednesday, March 20, 7:00 p.m.
Where: Stan Sheriff Center (10,300)
Television: TBD
Radio: ESPN 1420 AM will carry the game live. Neighbor islands can listen live on KNUI on Maui, KHLO in Hilo, KKON in Kona, and KTOH on Kaua’i.
Audio Webcast: Live audio streaming on espn1420am.com
Live Stats: Live in-game stats are available at HawaiiAthletics.com
Ticket Information: Tickets range from $5-$24; UH Manoa students free with validated ID. Fans can purchase upper-level, adult baseline seats in designated areas for 50%. Military members receive a special $12 rate for upper level tickets (ID required). Parking $6.

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  1. Welcome Coach Pilipovich! Hope Warriors and Falcons hook up in a great Basketball match. You have to appreciate, as does UH MBB team being part of a March Madness Post Season, and we are happy to have your great team here!

    UH MBB will come ready to play, and I am sure you will have the Falcons motivated.

    However, we have an “EAGLE” on this forum, so UH can soar, if firing on all cylinders!

    And the Maniacs welcome the Academy too! Alooooooha!

    D: !!

  2. Great to pack the house but Isaac don’t worry about recording it. It will play out the same as it did all season. Same game, same 5 plays and same results. Any good high school team could route this one. Here is how it goes. Jace walks it up(No hurry in him) Passes to Fotu. If Fotu doesn’t force it or loose it and passes out then it goes out to Jace who passes to Vander. Vander will never pass it and will shoot even with 3 of 4 people hanging on him. Defense on Hawaii is easy…sag on Vander. He always gets the ball and never passes so sag and no work except that. Then if Hauns is wide wide open in the corner Jace will wait until defenders are on Hauns to pass the ball to him. Hauns can’t do anything by then and passes into Vander then it is all over again. If Christian gets the ball it is either coast to coast and throw up anything or if he gets the pass it is going to be thrown up. Looks like he just likes to pad his numbers. If there is a fast break Christian cuts in front of everyone to try and get the pass for himself rather than spread the floor for the guy with the fast break. Hauns, Jawater, Manroop etc…. Never get a decent screen to come off of and have to work for all their opportunities. They end up having to force last minute efforts or hurry all their shots. Then if any of them miss one they are pulled out. What does that say? It plays with the shooters heads(which the coaches know) but it really says that there is no confidence in the bigs. The teams that are going to the Final 4 consistently don’t worry about make or miss from the outside. They set a decent screen for the guy or run a play that opens them up. They take it. If it goes in it is a bonus if not the bigs should be there to clean it up. Hawaii is not doing that. Anything around 30% from the outside is great. Hawaii players have to be much better or they are pulled. The percentages of 30% from outside and the bigs cleaning up the rest are the winning teams formula. What is Hawaii doing….pass to Vander…to Christian and Fotu….. Then if Jace misses one he gets scared to try again and no one defends him. More to sag on the others. So what is the key. Coaches set a plan and a back-up plan but it should entail…Play fast, play as a team, put everything aside and play every play like it is intended. Screen like one should, Box out like one should, Rebound like one should, attack every play like one should….be a WARRIOR. All need to be Warriors Coaches included…..Fans Also…..Recording Complete.

  3. Medina:

    That about sums it up. Play Basketball, NCAA DI MBB as a good team should. UH at home can win. If they play with out purpose or confusion, not fundamental Basketball, which every hoopster learned from Grade School to High School, then long night, same result.

    Boy, Medina, I hope, all UH MBB fans hope, UH plays well. Bigs be Big and perimeter guys do their thing. In the beginning of season, looked like some purpose and in sync, during latter stages they lost it. However, we shall, see this a redemption game. Wish that Brandon Spearman will bring some energy, or just be really a positive presence!

    Warriors, do best, play as a team, and get a win for the seniors!

    Isaac, we all hoping for the best, the crowd should be good and supportive.

    Good summary Medina, hope the guys come to play Ball!

    MBB, just WIN guys!!

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