Falcons Nip Lobos at the Wire, 51-50
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  02/14/2004
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

Feb. 14, 2004

AP Sports Writer

AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. (AP) - Antoine Hood had 16 points and hit 1 of 2 free throws with :09 left to give Air Force a 51-50 win over New Mexico on Saturday.

Air Force (18-3 overall, 8-1 Mountain West) trailed most of the way, but hit the key shots down the stretch to break a 46-year-old school record for wins in a season. Nick Welch added 12 points for the Falcons, who beat New Mexico in consecutive games for the first time in 42 years.

Air Force has won 11 straight at home and 16 of 17 overall.

Danny Granger led New Mexico (13-9, 4-5) with 15 points, but missed a 3-pointer in the closing seconds after Hood's free throw. Troy DeVries grabbed the offensive rebound off Granger's miss, but hit the side of the backboard at the buzzer for the Lobos' 23rd straight road loss.

Air Force made the most of its limited offensive opportunities to stay within one of New Mexico in the first half, but had trouble finding the range early in the second.

The Falcons missed eight of their first 11 shots - 10 3-pointers - while the Lobos started 5-of-8 to take a 39-32 lead.

But Air Force wasn't quite done.

Welch got the Falcons within four and the crowd going with a 3-pointer at the shot clock buzzer, then the roar got even louder when Granger had to go to the bench with his fourth foul with 7:42 left.

Joel Gerlach followed with a drive to make it 41-39 and Hood tied it with a spin move around Javin Tindall, but David Chiotti scored on a 3-point play in the lane to put New Mexico back up three.

Welch answered with a basket inside to make it 44-43, then hit two free throws to put Air Force up one with 3:26 left.

Granger made it 46-45 with a runner, then poked the ball away from Gerlach for a steal on the other end. The Air Force senior responded by blocking Mark Walters' dunk attempt and hitting a 3-pointer to put the Falcons up 48-46 with 1:40 left.

Jeff Hart hit a long 3-pointer on the other end to make it 49-48 with 1:17 left, then Hood hit a pair of free throws to put the Falcons back up. Chiotti tied it by hitting 1-of-2 free throws with 33 seconds left, but Hood got the line for the winning free throw with a drive to the basket.

New Mexico struggled early in its first meeting against Air Force, a 68-42 loss on Jan. 17, but Granger made sure the Lobos got off to a fast start this time.

He hit a long 3-pointer to open the game, then scored on a runner after blocking A.J. Kuhle's shot on the other end.

Granger followed with a skip pass to Alfred Neale, who hit a 3-pointer from the corner that put the Lobos up 8-0 and brought a rowdy section of New Mexico fans to their feet.

New Mexico's defense was better, too.

After going 12-for-20 on 3-pointers the first time around, Air Force had trouble getting open looks early against New Mexico's man defense. The Falcons fell behind 11-2 in the first five minutes and didn't have a field goal until Gerlach hit a 3-pointer from the wing at 14:51.