Of the 336 Division-I men’s basketball teams, none have a longer home winning streak than CSU’s next two opponents.
Air Force and Brigham Young have both won 29 consecutive home games, tied for the nation’s longest streak after Gonzaga’s first home loss in 51 games earlier this week.
The first challenge for the Rams (15-9, 5-7) is Saturday at 3:30 p.m. when they take on the 17th ranked Air Force Falcons (22-4, 9-3) at Clune Arena in Colorado Springs.
But according to the Rams, an upset mentality is not needed to pull off a victory.
“We know we got the offensive power,” said junior guard Tyler Smith. “We just need to get better on the defensive side.” CSU snapped a five-game losing streak in its last game with an 82-66 home victory against TCU Tuesday night.
The Rams proved they can hang with the Falcons in the teams’ first match-up of the season on Jan. 3, which Air Force won 81-75 at Moby Arena. The 75 points scored by CSU are the second-most by an Air Force opponent all season.
“I bet they have that in their head,” said sophomore Stephan Gilling. “This time we have something a little different for them.”
The “something different” is a new full-court press the Rams will implement to try and limit the time the Falcons’ possession time in the half-court offense.
Air Force is coached by former Denver Nuggets Head Coach Jeff Bzdelik. After leading the Nuggets to the sixth-best turnaround in NBA history during the 2003-04 season, Bzdelik was fired by Denver in December 2004 and eventually replaced by current coach George Karl.
Bzdelik was hired by the Academy five months later and has complied an impressive 46-11 record thus far, including the most successful season in the program’s history a year ago.
Statistically the Falcons are among the country’s best in many factions. They rank in the top ten in 3-point percentage, field goal percentage, scoring defense and free throw percentage.
When saying how the break the nation’s longest home winning streak, Gilling put it this way: “we just have to stick together and we’ll be fine.”
Men’s basketball beat writer Sean Star can be reached at email@example.com
By the Numbers:
17- Air Force’s rank in the AP poll
2- The Falcons’ national rank in scoring defense
22- CSU’s national rank in blocks per game (5.3)
1- Jason Smith’s rank in MWC rebounding per game (9.3)
Key Player: AFA senior forward Dan Nwaelele: The team’s top scorer, 14.8 points per game, torched the Rams for 22 points in the teams’ first match-up.
Key Stat: 12-1, CSU’s record with Tim Denson, Tyler Smith, Cory Lewis, Jason Smith and Stuart Creason in the starting lineup-the same one used for Tuesday’s win.
When: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. MT
Where: Clune Arena, Colorado Springs
Who: CSU Rams vs. Air Force Falcons
Coverage: The Mtn. (channel 411 Comcast)