It's been a great week for Colorado State basketball. While the Rams came up just short of winning their first conference title in 27 years, CSU collected an impressive array of hardware. Larry Eustachy was voted Mountain West Coach of the Year by both the league's coaches and affiliated media, while Gian Clavell was voted the league's Player of the Year. He was joined by fellow senior Emmanuel Omogbo on the first team All-Conference, All-Defense and All-District lists. Prentiss Nixon also earned honorable mention all-conference.
On Thursday night in Las Vegas, the second-seeded Rams took on tenth seed Air Force in the quarterfinals of the Mountain West Tournament. The Rams' positive momentum continued onward, as CSU cruised to an 81-55 victory over their I-25 rival.
CSU, wearing its alternate gray uniforms for the first time all season, was paced by Clavell's 30 points. A 14-point, 6-rebound effort in the first half was followed up with a 16-point second half performance. Really, the Rams had no issues with the Falcons, with the exception of Falcons senior leader Hayden Graham. He led AFA with 15 points - all but 2 points coming in he first half.
Colorado State dominated the glass, which was a huge reason they were able to get out and control the rhythm of the game on the offensive end. The Rams out-rebounded Air Force 38-26. Omogbo had just 2 rebounds, but Nico Carvacho (9), Clavell (7) and Braden Koelliker (7) picked up the slack.
The game was marked by runs early on. Air Force used a couple three-point makes from Graham to get out to a 16-12 lead. From there, CSU went on an 11-0 run, thanks to strong two-way play from Clavell and Koelliker, who scored five of those points and came away with a strong block on defense.
The Falcons then came out of a timeout with an 8-0 run of their own over the span of less than a minute. But following yet another timeout, CSU grabbed hold of the momentum. Clavell knocked down a three ball and a difficult jumper, while Nixon chipped in six points to propel CSU to a 16-0 run. Air Force went nearly 8 minutes without scoring a point before Graham drove the ball from the right wing and finished with a dunk just before the half. The Rams led by 13 points at the break.
In the second half, it was more of the same. Air Force didn't score its first basket until the 16:15 mark. Until that make, the Falcons went a remarkable 11:50 spanning the two halves where they scored just one field goal.
Omogbo never really got going and Carvacho eventually fouled out, but by then, CSU had totally taken over, thanks to hot shooting (48 percent for the half) and the drastic cold shooting spell from the Falcons. Clavell was the epitome of efficient, going 10-of-16 from the field, 6-of-11 from deep and a perfect 4-for-4 from the charity stripe en route to earning 30 points in just 29 minutes of play. Along with his 7 rebounds, he chipped in 2 steals and 2 assists. To top it off, he failed to turn the ball over.
Essentially, Clavell proved all over again why he was chosen as the conference's best player and why he earned a place on the All-Defense team.
CSU moves on to the semifinals of the Mountain West Tournament for the third year in a row and fifth time in six years. CSU will face the winner of the Boise State/ San Diego State matchup at 10:30 pm MST Friday night, a game that will be televised once again on the CBS Sports Network.