LAS VEGAS, Nev. -- No. 2 Colorado State took control of the game midway through the first half and never relinquished it in an impressive 81-55 victory over No. 10 seed Air Force in 2017 Mountain West Championship quarterfinals at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, March 9. The Rams improved to 22-10 on the season, while the Falcons finished at 12-21.
Air Force came out strong, leading for the most of the first part of the game and holding a 16-12 advantage with just over six minutes gone. The Rams then put together an 11-0 run over the next 3:32, including five from sophomore forward Braden Koelliker and six from senior guard Gian Clavell, to take a 23-16 lead. The Falcons responded with eight straight to take a 24-23 lead with 8:06 to play, but the Rams' defense got stops as the No. 2 seed scored 16 straight over an eight-minute span and led 39-26 at the break.
The Rams continued their strong defensive effort to start the final 20 minutes, scoring the first eight points and holding the Falcons to just two in the first four minutes for a 48-28 lead at the under-16 media timeout. CSU built the lead to as many as 33 in the game, maintaining complete control of the contest throughout the second half.
CSU finished the game shooting 48.4 percent (30-of-62) from the floor while limiting Air Force to 38.5 percent (20-of-52), including 36.0 percent (9-of-25) in the second half. CSU outrebounded AFA 38-26, including 10 offensive rebounds that were converted into 15 second chance points. Both teams were solid at the free throw line, as Colorado State was 13-of-15 and Air Force was 11-of-13.
Clavell led all scorers with a game-high 30 points and added seven rebounds. Sophomore Prentiss Nixon had 15 points, while senior Emmanuel Omogbo had 12. Redshirt-freshman forward Nico Carvacho finished just shy of a double-double with 10 points and a game-high nine rebounds. Air Force was led by Hayden Graham's 15 points, while Lavell Scottie was the only other Falcon in double figures with 12.
IN THEIR WORDS...
Colorado State head coach Larry Eustachy
(on the game overall)
Well, I was really proud of our guys. We got here and we were a little loose and yesterday we really got focused I thought. And they were really listening to what I had to say, understanding what Air Force had done to Wyoming. So I give these guys a ton of credit right here for being ahead of their years as far as maturity and really locking in in a place that can be distracting, and not be distracted. And Air Force, they showed what they could do yesterday going on 25-0 run. For us to do that to that team was very impressive in my mind, it was seven guys and I'm really proud of them.
Senior guard Gian Clavell
(on the defensive effort overall and on Hayden Graham)
It wasn't just me. It was a team effort. We switched pick and roll handoffs. It was a team effort, the whole team. I think we were aware of where he was at the time. We lost him at times during the first half. And it was a team effort.
STAT OF THE GAME...
CSU turned the ball over a season low-tying five times in the game, with no turnovers in the second half, while forcing 11 Air Force turnovers and turning that into 19 points.
- Colorado State has advanced to the MW Semifinals for the fourth time under Eustachy and the eighth time in school history, as the Rams are now 13-16 in the postseason event.
- The 13-point halftime advantage was the largest of the season for the Rams.
- CSU is 18-2 when leading at halftime this season (82-12 under Eustachy in five years)
- Clavell's 30 points are his third 30+ point game of the season and the most ever scored by a CSU player in the MW Tournament (previous high was Matt Nelson vs. BYU in 2003). His six three-pointers were also a program high in a MW Tournament game.
- Clavell's 11th game of 20 or more points this season, all against MW foes
- The Rams are now 10-0 versus the Falcons under Eustachy and hold a 78-31 advantage in the overall series.
- The 26-point margin of victory by the Rams tied for the third largest win in Mountain West tournament history.
Colorado State advances to Friday's semifinals at 9:30 pm PT/10:30 MT against the winner of No. 3 Boise State and No. 6 San Diego State, played later Thursday night.
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