Air Force 75, Austin Peay 51
AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. (AP)—Tim Anderson grabbed a career-high eight rebounds and all five starters for Air Force scored 13 points as the Falcons snapped a four-game losing streak in a 75-51 win over Austin Peay in the first round of the NIT on Wednesday night.
Air Force, the top seed in the West region, will host fourth-seeded Georgia on Monday night in the second round. The Bulldogs beat Fresno State 88-78 earlier Wednesday.
Jacob Burtschi, Anderson, Matt McCraw, Dan Nwaelele and Nick Welch proved that 13 is a lucky number for the Falcons.
Welch scored his 13 before fouling out with 4:09 remaining in the game.
The Falcons (24-8) have now won 55 of their last 57 games at Clune Arena. Their 30-game home winning streak was snapped with a 62-58 loss to BYU in the regular-season finale on Feb. 27.
Air Force’s 24 wins ties a school record that was set last season.
Fernandez Lockett led Austin Peay (21-12) with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Drake Reed, the Ohio Valley Conference’s player of the year, finished with seven points. Reed had scored in double figures in 24 straight games before Wednesday night.
A 3-pointer by McCraw with just over 8 minutes remaining in the first half gave Air Force a 19-16 advantage. The Falcons didn’t trail again. They led 33-24 at halftime.
McCraw became the 22nd player at Air Force to eclipse 1,000 points for his career. Fellow seniors Welch, Burtschi and Nwaelele all surpassed the 1,000-point mark earlier this season.
Austin Peay won the OVC title this season for the seventh time in school history. The Governors lost to Eastern Kentucky 63-62 in the league tournament to fall short of the automatic NCAA tournament bid.
The future of Air Force coach Jeff Bzdelik remains a hot topic. He’s been repeatedly asked if he plans on leaving the Falcons after the season.
While he said he hasn’t been contacted by any schools—such as the University of Colorado—about openings, Bzdelik said he’s willing to listen to offers.
“I’ll be honest with you: Yeah,” said Bzdelik, who’s in his second year at Air Force. “I have no plans to go anywhere else, but there’s always that ‘but.”’
The Falcons started the season 17-1, but stumbled midway through, going 6-7 the rest of the way. Air Force, which climbed in the rankings to a school-best 13th, lost its last four games of the season and wasn’t selected to its second straight NCAA tournament.
Instead, the Falcons were invited to their first NIT appearance.
Austin Peay received its second trip to the NIT. The Governors beat Belmont and then lost to George Mason in 2004.
This was only the second meeting between the two schools. Austin Peay beat Air Force 91-72 on Dec. 29, 1995, in the Toledo MVP Classic.