(Scroll down for news links for AF vs CSU, AF over UNLV, MWC)
It is time for Air Force to lace up their shoes, put their body armour on, and 'get ready to rumble' as the #24 Colorado State Rams come to Clune Arena on Saturday. In a wild race to finish the MWC regular season, Air Force finds them in the surprising position of tied for third place with SDSU (actually in third as they own the tie breaker at this time).
This game has significant importance for this Falcon team as it heads down the stretch. If AF wins they're 7-4 and SDSU needs a win to keep pace at 7-4 or AF is truely in third alone. CSU, currently in second, would fall to 7-3, and if NM wins they would be 9-2 up 2 games on AFA and SDSU and up 1 1/2 games on CSU. The jumble gets worse if you go the other way with Boise State currently 1 1/2 games behind AF and playing at the Pit this weekend. As we go down the stretch Air Force is playing for a final league record which then go directly toward conference seeding. A definite factor in playing a 3-6 matchup versus playing a 4-5 matchup in some fashion.
Back to this weekend, Air Force is playing what will be it's eighth game of the season versus teams that have been nationally ranked at one time or another. The Falcons played now #6 Florida (being a one point game with 16 minutes to go), Wichita State to lose by 3 at home, a one point game at half before losing to Colorado (who trounced #9 Arizona last night), beat then #22 SDSU, lost in OT on the road then beat UNLV here at home, lost to #15 NM in the Pit and, in their biggest deficit, lost on the road to now #24 CSU. My point in discussing this is to show that the Falcons have played many premier teams and games this season. They have the experience to play with a team as big and explosive as CSU and have the potential to win this game. It all begins on the practice court and will end with the final buzzer around 4pm tomorrow.
In the first meeting between AF and CSU you found a Falcon team that traveled to Ft. Collins after a thrilling and emotional overtime loss to UNLV. Confidence was high for the Falcons but they carried the emotional baggage of not getting the win. They started of fast and strong with three backdoor layups while working the offense. Then CSU said 'no' to the Falcons going into the lane, became very physical, Air Force's effort to go into the lane diminished and the final score showed CSU winning by 39 points. Here's my postgame and preview thoughts for the first meeting to include personnel breakdown from February 16th:
Postgame: Air Force loses to Colorado State in a blowout
Pregame: Air Force (9-5/1-1) vs Colorado State (13-3/0-1)
The biggest challenge for Air Force in playing the Rams is their balance. Looking at all the teams Air Force have face, most are truely more of an inside or an outside shooting team. While we all know of CSU's strengths inside, they are also fourth in the MWC in shooting the three and have the potential to hurt you from the 3pt arc. It makes defending the Rams difficult. Add into that the two headed monster the Rams call Colton Iverson (6'10"/260#/13.5ppg/10rpg) and Pierce Hornung (6'5"/210#/10ppg/9rpg). These two play together like brothers, knowing where each other is everywhere on the offensive end of the floor, feeding off one another and nabbing a combined 19rpg. They play tough and they play physical along with 6'6"/220# Greg Smith (11ppg/6rpg) and guard Bejarano (7ppg/6rpg). Just like what you saw with Air Force's effort vs UNLV to 'want' the ball on rebounds, the Rams have been doing that each and every game. Guards Dorian Green (13ppg/36% 3pt) and Wes Eikmeier (11ppg/37% 3pt) lead the way from the arc in shooting the three ball. If you read this closely you see five guys averaging double figures in scoring and 4 guys averaging between 10-6 rpg.
The matchup in current numbers:
AF FG 48% FT 72% (81%MWC) 3pt 39%(8-21/gm) Reb 30 APG 16 SPG 7 BPG 2 TPG 12
CSU FG 45% FT 72% (70%MWC) 3pt 34% (5-15/gm) Reb 42 APG 14 SPG 5 BPG 2 TPG 11
|Field Goal %|
|Free Throw %|
What happened in the first game and what must change in this second match up for the Falcons? Air Force was taken out of their flow by a very physical CSU team and ended up relying on the three as their primary weapon, not going inside out and finished 16% 3-9 from the three point arc. It was CSU's physical play that did the Falcons in. Officials do not win or lose games, but they did allow the Rams to check and punish the Falcons on both ends of the court. I do not expect any favors from anyone in this game versus a top 25 team so Air Force must figure out how to combat the physical play and be physical themselves. In a nutshell, that is what AF must do to win. Breakdown of keys for Air Force:
1) I said it above. Be physical on both ends, do not be intimidated by the Rams (or the officials) and just play Air Force basketball. CSU had 38 points in the paint in game one versus AF's 20 points in the paint. Cannot happen this game.
2) Take care of the ball. In game one AF had 19 turnovers with CSU turning them into 30 points. Nuff said.
3) The Falcons must go inside out. They must make CSU defend the cutter and the slip while taking the ball inside and either scoring or getting fouled trying to 'or' making that extra pass to the outside. Versus UNLV on Wednesday night I may have seen the Air Force Princeton offense use the pass and work better than I have since the NCAA and NIT semi-finals teams of 2004-2007. It was exceptional and it let the pass do the work not the dribble. It will be incumbent on this team to do this versus CSU. Interestingly enough, it was this type passing by the CSU offense that impressed me most in their win at Moby Arena.
4) Defend and defend aggressively. I do not want to be the one to cry 'wolf' in this pregame review, but the physical play in the first game was not allowed on both ends of the court by both teams. Air Force fans and CSU fans that watched that game and know basketball can tell you that CSU 'was' more physical and were allowed to be physical by the officials. AF was not given the same 'opportunity' by the officials as were the Rams. Read between the lines and get my drift. Saturday we must defend as we did versus UNLV and hope we are allowed to do so. We do this then we will hamper CSU's ability to get points on the inside. We have shown the ability to do this now we must make it happen.
5) Time for the leaders on Air Force to lead. In game one we had no one, starters or bench, to score in double figures. That is alright if everyone is scoring but that did not happen. Time for Mike Lyons, Mike Fitzgerald, Todd Fletcher, Taylor Broekhuis and all their teammates to get into that comfort zone at home, DO NOT PRESS, and just make the shots they normally make. Credit CSU's defense in the first game but bottom line, the Falcons accepted the outside shots, pressed for the outside shots and did not make them. I expect a different attitude and game this time around.
6) Bench actually did well in the first game and must go the same in this one. Starters must get rest and the bench must contribute.
7) Lastly, and something the team has no control over, is the Air Force fans and the cadets of Section 8. Lower bowl is already sold out at Clune Arena for this game and it is expected that at least 2000 CSU fans will be at this game. If the Falcons were ranked #24 and playing in Ft Collins I would hope we would do the same (but doubt the AF fans would travel). It is a three-day weekend for the Wing so I have no idea of the number of Section 8 that will show up for the game. Perspective: 3500 CSU students made their game Wednesday night, I believe we had 100 or so. Those in attendance must do OUR part to let our team know we are there and cheering them on to victory.
This is not a must win game but it is highlighted as one of those games that can define a team and it's season. Other big games for the MWC:
#24 CSU (7-2) at Air Force (6-4)
Boise St (4-5) at #19 NM (8-2)
Fresno St (2-8) at Wyoming (3-7)
SDSU (6-4) at UNLV (5-5)
Big game for the Falcons.
15 Feb 2013 New: AF Preview vs #24 CSU, AF WINS over UNLV, AF Women lose on road, MWC action
Rick's Falcon Review: Preview: Air Force vs #24 CSU
Matchup Stats: Air Force vs #24 CSU
Air Force vs Colorado State ticket information
Falcons get rare win over UNLV the rare way
RAMSEY: Earls helps bring good times to Air Force
Rick's Falcon Review: Postgame: Air Force over UNLV 71-56
www.goairforcefalcons.com/spor...-FXybWL6kX4VPg" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">Air Force Runs Past UNLV, 71-56
www.denverpost.com/afa/ci_2258...mA1WrvlQZZJdBg" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">Air Force Falcons impressive in blowout win over UNLV