AIR FORCE ACADEMY – Any hopes of an at-large berth in the NCAA tournament are likely gone for the CSU menâ€™s basketball team after suffering a 74-57 loss on Saturday night at the Air Force Academy.
The Rams (18-10, 8-6 MWC) came out in the first half and got into a three-point shooting contest with the Falcons (14-13, 5-9 MWC).
At halftime, CSU had attempted a dozen two-point field goals, making nine of them. Conversely, the Rams had 13 three-point attempts, making only two. At the same time, Air Force had converted 7 of 14 three-point attempts. Those stats combined to help give the Falcons a 37-28 halftime lead.
In the second half the Rams saw their inside game fall apart while the outside shooting continued to struggle. CSU missed 26 shots in the final half â€” including 13 from long range.
â€œWe shot too many threes. They did a good job taking away our inside stuff. That was the best available shot oftentimes,â€ coach Tim Miles said. â€œYou go 5-for-26 the first (game against Air Force), 5-for-29 this time (on threes). Iâ€™d like to think weâ€™re a better three-point shooting team than that, but we havenâ€™t proven it.â€
Despite the poor shooting effort, the Rams were able to pull within two points twice in the second half. But after two free throws by Adam Nigon with 13:08 remaining made the score 47-45, CSU went the next eight and a half minutes without scoring. In that time the Falcons ran off 13 consecutive points to make the score 60-45.
Air Force sealed the game by making 10 of 14 free throws in the last four minutes of the game. The Falcons were led by a balanced scoring attack, which saw guard Michael Lyons score 21, while three others (Tom Fow, Todd Fletcher, Derek Brooks) scored 11 points or more.
The Rams, on the other hand, were a one-man band. Senior Andy Ogide finished with 27 points â€” one off a career-high â€” and 10 rebounds. No other CSU player finished with more than eight points.
The loss leaves the Rams needing to regroup quickly if they want to have any chance of making the NCAA tournament.
â€œItâ€™s frustrating, but weâ€™re a team thatâ€™s never had it easy. So weâ€™ve got to go out there and try to make something happen,â€ Ogide said. â€œWe had a good run early in the season and weâ€™ve kind of faltered a little bit towards the end. Weâ€™ve got to look ourselves in the mirror and find out whatâ€™s going on and try to come up with five (wins) in a row.â€
After making a serious run at the top of the conference earlier in the season, the Rams now look more like a team destined for the consolation National Invitational Tournament (NIT) than an at-large NCAA tournament qualifier.
CSUâ€™s best shot at an NCAA tournament berth may now be the automatic berth that comes from winning the Mountain West Conference tournament.
â€œWeâ€™re just going to come out and try and get a couple more wins next week and then see what we can do in the Mountain West tournament,â€ Miles said.
Menâ€™s basketball Beat Reporter Kevin Lytle can be reached at email@example.com.