Men's basketball recap: Rams clip Falcons to keep tourney hopes alive
March 3, 2012
By Danny Mattie
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- The Colorado State men’s basketball team, behind a 23-point effort from junior guard Wes Eikmeier, overcame a three-point barrage by the Air Force Falcons to capture a 75-65 road win in the Rams’ regular season finale in front of 4,858 fans, including a strong CSU contingent, at Clune Arena.
The road win, CSU’s first in Mountain West play this season, moved the Rams to 19-10 overall (8-6 MW), secured a seed no lower than fourth in next week’s Conoco Mountain West Basketball Championships, and kept alive the Rams’ hopes for the programs’ first NCAA tournament bid since 2003.
“Walking in the locker room and seeing the pride on the kids’ faces (was great),” said Head Coach Tim Miles. “We finally got a road win, we won down here. That is so gratifying as a coach, to see all that hard work (pay off). You could see the weight of the world on our guys’ shoulders and they played through that. They still played.”
In fact, the Rams got off to a quick start against the hot-shooting Falcons, building a lead that reached 11 points in the first half. And despite the Falcons’ going 8-for-11 from distance in the opening stanza, CSU clung to a 37-34 halftime lead.
It appeared as though the Rams had weathered the storm. But the Falcons didn’t slow in the second half, and took their first lead of the game, 49-48, at the 13:09 mark when Michael Lyons, who led the Falcons with 18 points, knocked down the fourth of his five three-pointers.
The teams exchanged jabs, with Dwight Smith’s layup momentarily reclaiming the CSU lead, followed by the Falcons’ Todd Fletcher taking it back just seconds later with a jumper at the top of the key.
That’s when Eikmeier, the Rams’ scoring leader and the second-leading scorer in the league, took over the contest, pouring in 13 of his 23 points in the final 12:25.
The junior guard knocked down the fourth of his five treys to put CSU back up 53-51, and a Jesse Carr layup at the 10:56 mark pushed the CSU advantage back to two possessions. But the Falcons countered with five straight from Fletcher to regain the 56-55 advantage at the 10:05 mark.
Dorian Green, who tallied 16 points, six rebounds and three assists, gave the Rams the final lead 57-56 with a pair of daggers from the charity stripe at the 8:57 mark, setting the stage for a wild two-minute stretch that saw Eikmeier score seven consecutive points and assist a monster dunk by Will Bell with just under seven minutes remaining, to push the CSU lead a more comfortable seven-point margin, 66-59.
Eikmeier’s run was triggered by a possession in which he hit four straight free-throws thanks to a personal foul and an ensuing technical foul on the Falcons’ Max Yon.
“Not very often in basketball does someone get to take four shots before anyone else touches the ball,” said Eikmeier. “I think that was a momentum shift … that kind of took the wind out of their sails. But overall, we just made enough little plays, which probably won’t show up in the stat sheet, to win the game.”
The Falcons never got closer than two possessions the rest of the contest, and following Eikmeier’s fifth trey of the game at the 5:22 mark, CSU maintained a three-possession advantage to close out the victory, 75-65.
The Rams now turn their attention to the upcoming Mountain West tournament, which begins Thursday in Las Vegas, Nev., with CSU either seeded third or fourth, depending on the outcome of tonight’s game between UNLV and Wyoming at the Thomas & Mack Center. The No. 4 vs. No. 5 game is slated for 2:30 p.m. PT/3:30 p.m. MT, while the 3-6 matchup starts at 8:30 p.m. PT/9:30 p.m. MT. Both games will be simulcast on The Mtn. and CBS Sports Network.
“We just have to keep winning,” added Green. “We have to go into the Mountain West tournament with the mindset that we have to win all three to get in (the NCAA tournament), and just keep winning.”