AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. — Austin Ainge may have duplicated his six turnovers at San Diego, but in the biggest game of his career, he shook off his mistakes and came up with some of BYU's biggest plays of the night in the Cougars' 62-58 upset win over No. 25 Air Force on Tuesday.
You couldn't blame Ainge for celebrating hard, leading the cheers as BYU raced off the court in Clune Arena.
As Ainge and Co. exited the arena, they held up their index fingers, pointing No. 1 to a stunned Section Eight student section near the portal.
The BYU win ended the Falcon's 30-game home win streak which was tied with the Cougars for the longest in the nation. It ruined Senior Night for the Falcons. It marked the first sweep of AFA since 2003 and the third BYU win over a ranked foe this season. The win catapulted the Cougars into the No. 1 seed heading into the MWC tournament in Las Vegas next week , following the regular season finale with Utah.
"Wow, I tell you what. I've been embarrassed in this arena a lot of times and I've had this one circled on my calendar for a long, long time. It feels about as good as any win I've ever had," said Ainge, who took constant abuse from a loud partisan crowd all night.
"We wanted to come in really focused. We made some mistakes, but our effort was there and we did what we needed to do to get a win," said Ainge.
Ainge knocked down all four of his 3-point shots in the first half to help BYU keep pace with the Falcons early. With 30 seconds left in the game and the Falcons trailing 61-58 with the ball, Ainge switched off and took on Falcon Jacob Burtschi and the two got tangled on the baseline as Burtschi tried to complete a drive.
That turnover essentially killed any AFA attempts to hold serve at home.
"I got a piece of the ball and I think it went off his knee," said Ainge. On the ensuing Cougar possession, Lee Cummard hit the second of his two free throws to complete BYU's win over the Falcons.
Ainge scored 14 points to go with his 5 assists and six rebounds. He led the Cougars to a remarkable 8 for 14 shooting effort from 3-point range in Clune Arena (57 percent), a place the Falcons had been deadly from beyond the arc.
AFA finished 7 of 18 for 38 percent from beyond the arc — a key element of the game.
"It was such a blur out there. All I was thinking of in the final minutes was keeping our guys focused and not letting them hit any threes because they can really knock them down," said Ainge.
The Cougars set a school record for most three-pointers in a season (218) in the win over the Falcons. The previous high was 214.
That the Cougars beat the Falcons at their own game on their own turf was not lost on Ainge.
And his six turnovers?
He said after the loss at San Diego State, the Cougars couldn't win if he had six in a game.
"We'll there goes that," he said. "I was just trying to be aggressive out there. I made some dumb plays but I made some others to make up for it."
With the win at AFA, the Cougars are the only team in the conference with a winning road record in league play (5-3).