With seven-and-a-half minutes left in the game, down 55-54 to the Air Force Falcons, the CSU menâ€™s basketball team was staring a home-court upset in the face.
Everything had gone wrong for the Rams up to that point on Wednesday night. A team that had shot consistently from three-point range all season was 4-for-24.
Contributing nine of those 20 missed triples was senior guard Adam Nigon.
He made just one three-point basket the entire night, and it proved to be the turning point.
Nigonâ€™s basket gave the Rams (14-6, 4-2 MWC) a 57-55 lead, which they would not relinquish as they closed out the 69-66 win over Air Force and remained in third place in the conference.
â€œYou never get into a shooterâ€™s head,â€ CSU coach Tim Miles said. â€œHeâ€™s the one guy up waving a towel (on the bench)â€¦heâ€™s into the game more than anybody. The first time back on the floor he makes a three.â€
Senior forward Travis Franklin was one of the few Rams who produced consistently throughout, recording his third straight game of more than 20 points.
â€œI just want to be aggressive,â€ Franklin said. â€œMy teammates give me the ball in good spots where Iâ€™m able to score, and I just have to stay on the attack.â€
He played a well-rounded game, adding six assists and seven rebounds to go along with a game-high 21 points.
Franklin has had eight games this season scoring 20 points or more.
Air Force (11-8, 2-4 MWC) rode 52.4 percent shooting from downtown in the near upset.
Trailing by 11 points with 11:08 left in the first half, Falcon junior Tom Fow discovered his stroke, draining 4-of-7 three-point attempts. Air Force used the Ramsâ€™ over-aggressive defenders to finish with 11 total three-point baskets.
â€œWe knew that they were all good shooters, but your instincts take over,â€ said sophomore Greg Smith. â€œSomebody gets beat and we go to help, and they just kick it out and make shots.â€
The Falcons held a surprising 34-33 lead going into the half.
Sophomore forward Pierce Hornung brought exactly what CSU needed in the second half to deny the Falcons a mid-week surprise.
Hornung used grit and muscle to power inside and score.
A perfect 6-for-6 from the floor, he tallied 11 of his 13 points in the second half while maintaining a tough interior defense.
â€œI was just cutting, and (Franklin) and Greg (Smith) both hit me a couple times,â€ Hornung said. â€œThroughout a game you learn how to kind of break a team down.â€
Hornungâ€™s opportunity came because the Ramsâ€™ leading scorer Andy Ogide was ineffective defensively.
â€œIf you look at the tempo after I took him outâ€¦we were way quicker to the ball and now we had momentum,â€ Miles said. â€œAndy could dominate on the offensive end but was just a little bit behind on the defensive end.â€
CSUâ€™s next game is Saturday evening in Salt Lake City against the University of Utah. Tip-off is at 4 p.m. on The Mtn.
Assistant Sports Editor Cris Tiller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.