Jan. 26, 2011
By Nic Hallisey
Athletic Media Relations
FORT COLLINS, Colo.—It wasn’t what Head Coach Tim Miles hoped for, but a win is a win in conference play. And despite a poor shooting performance, the Rams were able to mount a second-half comeback to beat Air Force, 69-66, Wednesday night at Moby Arena.
From the closing minute of the first half until 15:08 of the second half, a stretch spanning 6 minutes, 8 seconds, the Rams (14-6, 4-2 MWC) were held without a basket, allowing Air Force (11-8, 2-4 MWC) to open up its lead to as many as eight, 41-33.
However, a 13-0 run over just 2:20 gave the Rams the lead and momentum once again. Sophomore Greg Smith sparked the run, scoring five points and recording an assist and steal to bring the Moby Arena crowd of 4,150 to its feet.
“I thought our guys were resilient tonight, as they have been all season,” Miles said. “We let them get back in the game but fought back and did what it took to get the win.”
The score for the remainder of the game was never separated by more than two possessions, with the Rams commanding the lead all but once, a 55-54 Air Force, at 8:45 that lasted just more than 1 minute.
With CSU leading by three with under a minute to play, it was Smith again, hitting a clutch basket near the CSU bench with 42 seconds on the clock to extend the Rams’ lead to five. Smith finished the night with 10 points, a block and a steal.
“I just felt like I had to just shoot the ball,” Smith said. “I was in rhythm; I’ve been getting a lot of extra shots up. I feel more confident shooting out there.”
CSU hit 5-of-7 free throws in the closing minute, and Air Force’s Tom Fow’s long three-point attempt at the buzzer fell short.
CSU opened up the game strong of defense, holding Air Force scoreless through the first 3:18 and to just two field goals through the first 6:35. But the Rams could never pull away, missing 13 first-half three-point attempts.
After a Smith trey with 11:08 to play in the half extended CSU’s lead to a game-high 11 points, 18-7, Air Force chipped away and finished the half on a 12-4 run, including three-pointers on three consecutive possessions, to enter the locker room with a 34-33 halftime lead, the Falcons’ first of the game.
Air Force outshot CSU (.500 to .453 from the floor and .524 to .192 from three-point range), but the Rams were able to force 17 Falcon turnovers, compared to their nine. CSU, led by Travis Franklin, Andy Ogide and Pierce Hornung’s combined 49 points, won the battle in the paint, 34-10.
“We can’t shoot any worse than we did tonight,” Franklin said. “We were really struggling. But that happens, and we still found a way to win, which just shows how good this team is. When shots aren’t going in we still find a way to win, whether that is defense or rebounding.”
Franklin’s game-high 21 points included several key free-throws in the closing seconds. It was the second time this season he has scored 20-points in three consecutive games. He also led the Rams with six assists and seven rebounds. Ogide scored 15 points and Hornung scored 13 points, 11 in the second half, on 6-of-6 shooting. At one point midway through the second half, Hornung scored nine of CSU’s 16 points.
“Pierce was incredible,” Miles said. “Again, he finds a way to change the game. Tonight he did it by keeping balls alive, rebounding well and scoring 6-for-6.
“I thought Greg Smith was really good tonight, too,” added Miles. “He had a huge shot that got us into a two possession lead late. Hopefully that is a rite of passage for him. I still think that is a really good sophomore group.”
Sophomore guard Wes Eikmeier, who had started each of CSU’s 19 games this season, did not play because of an ankle sprain. Senior Andre McFarland got the start in place of Eikmeier.
The Rams will be back in action Saturday as they travel to Salt Lake City to play at Utah for the final time as conference opponents. Tip is set for 4 p.m. on The Mtn.
“We won there last year,” Miles said. “They are a team that has won three in a row and they are playing good. They are a different matchup. They are doing different things than they have ever done before. A lot of things are going to have to go right, but I think it is a really exciting day for CSU basketball because it is really a critical and important game.”
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