Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — For most of the season, No. 7 BYU has played well on the road, but the Cougars have hit some speed bumps in their last two games away from home.
BYU fell at New Mexico on Jan. 29, then struggled to put away Wyoming in Laramie a week ago.
Tonight, the Cougars visit a confident Air Force team in front of what's expected to be a sellout crowd at 5,858-seat Clune Arena.
BYU is counting on a raucous crowd at the Academy. The Cougars, after all, are ranked in the top 10, and they're led by national player of the year candidate Jimmer Fredette, who is also the nation's leading scorer.
BYU coach Dave Rose said he knows that "the atmosphere in Clune Arena on Wednesday night will be one that we'll really have to bring our best game. Because they will be ready for us ... I would expect it to be a good crowd. We've had pretty good crowds on the road in all the places we've been this year. We've had our fans come out to watch us, but when you're ranked in the top 10, college basketball fans want to come watch a good team play. Hopefully, we'll play well."
Air Force coach Jeff Reynolds is anticipating a charged atmosphere tonight, too.
"Obviously, there will be a good crowd. People want to see Jimmer play and rightfully so," Reynolds said. "But he's got a good supporting cast as well. People lose sight of the fact that it's not only his scoring ability, it's his ability to get others involved. That's why I think he'll be a good pro. He does things that are hard to stop. And at the same time, you can't just focus on him ... There's a reason they are 22-2."
Reynolds is looking forward to this meeting against BYU (22-2, 8-1) and Fredette.
"We have a challenge this week against a nationally ranked BYU team that has probably one of the best ever players in the Mountain West Conference who I'm sure will be in the NBA," Reynolds said.
The Falcons (13-9, 4-5) threw a scare into the Cougars the last time the two teams met, in Provo on Jan. 8, as BYU edged Air Force, 76-66.
Despite his team's strong performance that day, Reynolds doesn't consider it a moral victory.
"We lost the game," he said. "We expected to go up there and have a shot to win it. I didn't leave (the Marriott Center) with a good feeling in my gut, and I don't think any of our kids did."
For Fredette, who scored only 22 points in that game last month, facing Air Force means adapting to a different style of play.
"They slow it down and they're very methodical in what they do," he said. "They play tough defense. They're tough guys. They're not going to go away. They're tough to put away because they know what they're doing. They run their offense to perfection. We have to play hard and make sure we don't give up any backcuts and play the best we possibly can because we know they're not going to go away."
Air Force is much improved over last season, when it went 10-21 overall and 1-15 in league play. The Falcons are 9-3 this season at home and are coming off a 54-49 victory at Utah last Saturday.
"They're winning games," Rose said. "It's the same group. They haven't had a lot of injury or illness this year. In the nine conference games, he's started the same starting lineup. I don't know if he started the same starting lineup nine times all last year. The kids are a year older and they're playing with a lot of confidence. They have good shooters."
The Falcons are led by Michael Lyons, who averages 12.7 points per game. Tom Fow chips in 12.5 points per game and Evan Washington adds 7.8.
NOTABLE: In the history of Air Force basketball, the Falcons have posted a 0-28 record against opponents ranked in the top 10 ... Freshman guard Kyle Collinsworth suffered a concussion during last Saturday's win over UNLV and is questionable for tonight ... Center James Anderson sustained a shoulder injury against the Runnin' Rebels and he is doubtful for tonight's game.
Cougars on the air
No. 7 BYU (22-2, 8-1) at Air Force (13-9, 4-5)
Today, 8 p.m.
TV: The Mtn. Radio: 1160
AM, 102.7 FM
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