USAF ACADEMY, Colo. - Air Force men’s basketball opened Mountain West play with a 49-47 win over Utah State (9-5, 0-1 MW) Wednesday afternoon at Clune Arena. The Falcons improved to 5-0 at home with the win and 8-4, 1-0 MW on the season.
Air Force held the 19th best shooting team in the nation to 32.7 percent shooting on the day, including 5.6 percent from three point range (1 for 19). The 47 points allowed was the lowest total ever scored by Utah State against Air Force, surpassing the previous low of 59 points.
The Falcons were led by 16 points from senior guard AJ Walker and 14 from freshman guard Jake Heidbreder. Walker provided valuable offense in the second half, scoring 12 points in the latter half. Heidbreder played all 40 minutes for the Falcons, tying a career-high with three three’s.
Junior forward Nikc Jackson had a standout game for the Falcons as well. Jackson scored nine points and set a career-high with 12 rebounds. Jackson also dished out five assists and had a clutch blocked shot late in the game.
Junior guard Camden Vander Zwaag also played 40 minutes for the Falcons. Vander Zwaag finished with eight points and three rebounds.
Air Force and Utah State battled back and forth in the first half, playing to a 22-22 tie. The Falcons led by as many as five points in the first half, but Utah State rallied to tie it up before the half.
The Falcons led for much of the second half, going up by as many as seven. Utah State kept it close late and had several chances to take the lead. Up a point, Jackson blocked what looked like an easy layup by forward Brandon Horvath with 2:24 to play. The Falcons were then able to extend the lead to three points on a pair of three-throws by Walker with eight seconds left.
After Utah State made a pair of free throws to make it a one-point game at 48-47 with five seconds to play, Heidbreder made a free throw to put the Falcons up two. The Aggie’s last second three-point attempt missed its mark and the Falcons earned its fifth straight home win, for its best start at home since 2016.
Utah State was led by forward Justin Bean, who scored 18 points and pulled down 10 rebounds. Horvath added nine points and 10 rebounds.
Air Force returns to action New Year’s day, Jan. 1 at Fresno State. Tip time is 1 pm PT at Save Mart Center.