March 4, 2006
Fort Collins - Colorado State's upset bid fell four points short in a 63-59 loss to Air Force Saturday afternoon in Moby Arena as the Rams closed regular-season men's Mountain West Conference competition.
The Rams scored six consecutive points over a two-minute span late in the game to lead, 59-58 on Stephan Gilling's three-pointer with just one minute, 37 seconds remaining. But those would be the Rams' final points in the game.
Air Force regained the lead 21 seconds later on a pair of free throws by Antoine Hood - the eighth and final lead change of the game - to leads 60-59. CSU had one more chance to take the lead with 50 seconds remaining, but Stuart Creason's 15-foot jumper was short. AFA's Tim Anderson sealed the win with a three-pointer with 11 seconds to play.
"I thought our guys played with great heart," said Rams' coach Dale Layer. "We had some opportunities, but we didn't make enough shots."
Colorado State built a five-point halftime lead, 31-26, behind timely scoring and solid defense. Forward Jason Smith, finished with a team-most 17 points, nine in the first half, while Creason added eight. Smith's basket with 4:10 to go in the first half gave CSU its largest lead of the game, 24-17. Defensively, CSU held AFA to just 41 percent.
But it would be Air Force's three-point shooting that made the difference in the game. The Falcons made 13-of-27 behind the line, including six by Matt McCraw. Trailing by five, 41-36, with 13:10 to play, AFA when on a 16-4 run over the next six minutes including six points by McCraw to take the lead. CSU faced its largest deficit of the game, 52-45, with just over seven minutes to play.
Four free throws by Michael Harrison and another basket by Smith cut the lead to a point, 52-51. After Hood made a pair of free throws and Jason Smith added a basket, Air Force scored four in a row on a baskets by Hood and Dan Nwaelele to widen the lead to 58-53, with 2:28 to play.
Colorado State then scored the game's next six points on a pair of free throws by Cory Lewis and Gilling's go-ahead three-pointer.
Smith not only led CSU in scoring, but took game honors with nine rebounds. Creason finished with 13 points, the only other Ram to score in double figures. McCraw all scorers with 18 points, while Hood added 15. Colorado State outrebounded Air Force, 35-20. CSU finished the game shooting 48 percent from the field, while Air Force was at 41 percent. Colorado State made 6-of-14 three-pointers. Colorado State made 11 of its 14 free throws while AFA made 10-of-12.
The Rams received disappointing news prior to the game. Senior swingman Micheal Morris, appearing for the final time in Moby Arena, sprained his right knee during a brief morning shoot-around. He missed Saturday's game and is doubtful for action the rest of season.
Colorado State falls to 15-14 overall, 4-12 in the league, while AFA is 24-5, 12-4. The Rams will face TCU at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday night at the Pepsi Center in Denver in the first game of the MWC Tournament. If the Rams win and advance, they will face regular season champion San Diego State, in Denver, at 12 noon Thursday.
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