Air Force women’s basketball looking for more shots from point guard Jo Huntimer | Air Force Sports

Air Force women’s basketball looking for more shots from point guard Jo Huntimer | Air Force Sports

Jo Huntimer understands what her coach wants from her, but implementing a style that goes against her nature makes for a difficult adjustment.

How far the Air Force women’s team can go this far might largely be determined by how it ultimately plays out.

“I am definitely a pass-first point guard, and I don’t think I will ever change,” said Huntimer, a sophomore from Hawaii. “But coach (Chris Gobrecht) had some motivational words in saying it was like four on five with me out there, because I don’t shoot enough.”

On Thursday, Huntimer listened to her coach. She shot six times (including three from 3-point range) and hit three of them. She scored 10 points with seven rebounds, six assists and just one turnover as the Falcons topped Utah State 77-63 to capture the Mountain West opener.

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Those six shots matched Huntimer’s total attempts from the previous three games, all losses.

So far this season, Huntimer is averaging 3.6 shots per game — up slightly from 3.3 per game last year — but not yet what Gobrecht wants.

“We had more prolific scorers last year,” Gobrecht said, explaining why Huntimer’s role was perfect last year for a team that was loaded with shooters like Riley Snyder, Cierra Winters, Laura McDonald and Kamri Heath but not as much for this year’s team that returns only Heath from that group. “So not having that same consistency of point production from as many different positions as we had, it (changes the situation).”

Huntimer was one of the keys to last season, the best on record for the Falcons’ women as a Division I program. Thrust into the lineup in early November when Briana Autrey-Thompson was lost for academic reasons, Huntimer dished out 3.7 assists with 1.7 turnovers per game. She filled highlight reels with no-look passes, but it was mostly the under-control presence leading the offense that helped the team maximize its possessions and ultimately finish fourth in the conference, advance to the conference tournament semifinals, and earn its first postseason berth in the WNIT.

Game analysis and insights from The Gazette sports staff including columns by Woody Paige and Paul Klee.

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There has been some bursts of scoring from Huntimer. Her first double-digit effort came in a double-overtime loss last year at UTEP, then she reached a career-high with 14 in a victory at Colorado State. This season, she has posted three double-digit scoring games in 13 contests, including 12 in a 71-63 loss at Colorado.

But six times this season, she has attempted three or fewer shots, as she did 22 times last year.

Gobrecht has other scoring options. Heath is averaging 15.6 points per game, Madison Smith is at 11.9 and Kayla Pilson 10. Nikki McDonald and Dasha Macmillan are both shooting 33% from 3-point range, and freshman guard Mihlanie Perry is averaging 12 points per 40 minutes.

So, perhaps Air Force will be fine with a point guard who would prefer to get shots for others than for herself, but as Gobrecht looked at that stat sheet from Thursday night, she saw the kind of performance she would prefer.

“If we can get that offensive production out of her, we’re going to suddenly become a lot tougher,” Gobrecht said. “Because suddenly, you can’t play four on five. Unfortunately, we’ve done that a lot.”

Tough road test ahead

Air Force (6-7, 1-0 Mountain West) travels to Albuquerque for a New Year’s Day game against New Mexico (8-5, 0-0) at 2 p.m. on CBS Sports Network.

The Lobos were one of four teams to finish ahead of the Falcons in the conference standings a year ago.

The Falcons are 4-46 all-time against New Mexico.