Jan 262011
 
Authors: Cris Tiller

With seven-and-a-half minutes left in the game, down 55-54 to the Air Force Falcons, the CSU men’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.

Nigon’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.

“You never get into a shooter’s head,” CSU coach Tim Miles said. “He’s the one guy up waving a towel (on the bench)…he’s into the game more than anybody. The first time back on the floor he makes a three.”

Senior forward Travis Franklin was one of the few Rams who produced consistently throughout, recording his third straight game of more than 20 points.

“I just want to be aggressive,” Franklin said. “My teammates give me the ball in good spots where I’m able to score, and I just have to stay on the attack.”

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 Rams’ over-aggressive defenders to finish with 11 total three-point baskets.

“We knew that they were all good shooters, but your instincts take over,” said sophomore Greg Smith. “Somebody gets beat and we go to help, and they just kick it out and make shots.”

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.

“I was just cutting, and (Franklin) and Greg (Smith) both hit me a couple times,” Hornung said. “Throughout a game you learn how to kind of break a team down.”

Hornung’s opportunity came because the Rams’ leading scorer Andy Ogide was ineffective defensively.

“If you look at the tempo after I took him out…we were way quicker to the ball and now we had momentum,” Miles said. “Andy could dominate on the offensive end but was just a little bit behind on the defensive end.”

CSU’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 sports@collegian.com.

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