Air Force Academy â€“ Usually Travis Franklin shooting free throws at critical points in a game would not be an ideal situation for the CSU Rams. That changed Tuesday night.
The Rams (15-9, 6-4 MWC) took down the Air Force Falcons (9-15, 1-9 MWC) 51-47 Tuesday night at Clune Arena, thanks in large part to the free throw shooting precision of Franklin.
The CSU forward hit five of six shots from the charity stripe, none more important than a pair of free throws that gave the Rams a 44-43 lead with just over five minutes left. That marked the green and goldâ€™s second lead of the game.
CSU kept the lead the remainder of the game thanks to a solid defense. The Rams held the Falcons to a measly four points during the final seven minutes of the contest and hit just enough free throws down the stretch to escape with the hard-fought victory.
Rams head coach Tim Miles said it was his teamâ€™s defense that won the game.
â€œI credit the kids, they really came back,â€ he said in a post-game interview. â€œWe really won with defense I thought. We got stops, we got stops, we got stops. We werenâ€™t doing a heck of a lot on offense but we did at least enough.â€
Forward Andy Ogide was once again solid for the Rams in the win, going 6-6 from the field while posting 12 points and four rebounds. Freshman Greg Smith also had a large impact for CSU with 10 points and nine rebounds off the bench.
Ogide gave credit to the Falcons for putting up a fight and said it was a tough game.
â€œI knew it was going to be harder than usual because they were playing harder than usual,â€ the junior said. â€œThey were making shots ,so I knew it was going to be tough, but we found a way somehow.â€
The Rams played sloppy in the first half, committing nine turnovers, four coming from travels. CSU failed to score in their final seven possessions of the first half, allowing Air Force to head into the locker room on a 7-0 run and up 29-21.
Rams guard Dorian Green blamed the slow start on a lack of focus. The true freshman finished Tuesdayâ€™s game with 10 points and four rebounds.
â€œI think we just had a lack of focus at the beginning of the game,â€ Green said. â€œWe just didnâ€™t come out and play as well as we do. Defensively we were pretty bad and they got whatever they wanted in the paint.â€
With the win, the Rams move into sole possession of fourth place in the MWC standings, half a game ahead of San Diego State. The victory also marks a three-game winning streak, two coming on the road.
CSU came into Tuesdayâ€™s game as a favorite, a situation Miles said the team isnâ€™t used to. The third-year coach said itâ€™s all part of the growth process for the Rams.
â€œWe havenâ€™t been in that situation very often,â€ Miles said. â€œTonight we learned how to find a way to win and I think thatâ€™s good. Iâ€™m proud of the guys for that. There are a lot of things I donâ€™t like about the game, but at the end of the year Iâ€™m going to look and see that we swept Air Force.â€
Assistant Sports Editor Adam Bohlmeyer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.