Air Force Wins Conference Opener

Antoine Hood scored 24 points and Air Force overcame poor shooting with hounding defense to win its 21st straight home game, a 58-53 victory over Colorado State Saturday in the Mountain West Conference opener for both teams.

AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. (AP) - Air Force (10-5) shot just 35 percent and was 3-for-23 from 3-point range, making up for it by pressuring the Rams into bad shots and mistakes. Matt McGraw and Nick Welch added 13 points each.

Colorado State (8-6), playing without No. 2 scorer Matt Williams (knee), was plagued by turnovers in the first half and poor shooting in the second to lose its 14th straight road game. Matt Nelson had 21 points and Dwight Boatner added 14 for the Rams, who were 1-for-14 on 3-pointers and had 22 turnovers.

Air Force had a miserable time shooting in the first half, watching shot after shot clang off the rim. The Falcons finally found the range for a brief spell midway through the second, in part because of their defense.

Air Force held the Rams without a field goal for 6 1/2 minutes and made 7-of-10 at the other end, using a 15-1 run to go up 45-34 with 8 minutes left.

Nelson followed with three straight baskets to cut Air Force's lead to 45-40, but Colorado State couldn't hit much else, finishing the second half 11-of-31.

The Rams had a decided size advantage with four players 6-foot-10 or taller - Welch is Air Force's tallest regular at 6-foot-8 - though they didn't do a very good job exploiting it.

Air Force collapsed in the lane every time Colorado State tried to throw it into the post, swarming Nelson, Stuart Creason and Jason Smith with up to four players. That didn't deter the Rams. The kept throwing the ball into the post no matter how much traffic, with little success.

Colorado State had 17 turnovers - most on lobs that weren't high enough - and took just 16 shots in the first half, trailing 26-23 after missing seven of eight shots during an 11-4 run by Air Force.

Thankfully for the Rams, Air Force was uncharacteristically offtarget.

The Falcons missed their first six 3-pointers, finishing the first half 2-of-11, and weren't much better inside the arc, shooting 34 percent.

Air Force made up for it with defense and plenty of shots. The Falcons doubled Colorado State's output, with Hood putting up one fewer shot (15) than the nine Rams.

Colorado St (8-6)

Smith 3-5 0-0 6, Nelson 9-10 3-5 21, Boatner 4-11 6-7 14, Rakiecki 0-7 4-5 4, M. Morris 1-8 1-2

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