The Falcons' 65-57 win over Colorado State snapped their 27-game conference road losing streak. It was Air Force's first Mountain West win on the road since Jan. 20, 2000.
"It's tough to win a road game in this league," Falcons coach Joe Scott said. "We are going to have to do it again if we are going to make some noise in this conference."
Tim Keller, Air Force's junior guard, noted that "none of us was here for the last road win. Every gym seemed to be the hardest gym we've ever played in. Teams threw shots up at the end of games and found the basket. That's what it's been like for us."
Not Monday night.
Keller scored 15 points and A.J. Kuhle had 14 for Air Force (10-2, 1-0 Mountain West). The Falcons also got 12 points from Nick Welch, 11 from Joel Gerlach and 10 from Antoine Hood. Matt Williams had 17 points and eight rebounds for short-handed Colorado State (8-6, 0-1), which played the game without two of its top players, center Matt Nelson (knee) and guard Micheal Morris (hamstring) who were out with injuries.
Air Force, which led 30-20 at halftime, padded its lead to 38-26 on Gerlach's 3-pointer with 16:02 remaining.
Ronnie Clark had 10 of his 12 points in the first seven minutes of the half to help Colorado State trim the deficit to 43-39.
But Air Force responded with an 8-0 run, and the Rams got no closer than six points after that. Hood started the surge with a three-point play following a steal on the other end. Gerlach then hit a 3-pointer and added two free throws for a 51-39 lead with 4:40 remaining.
Colorado State was forced to foul in the final two minutes, and the Falcons hit 11-of-14 free throws.
"They got it to four, but our guys were very calm," Scott said. "We ran our stuff and we got big baskets at key times. We showed a lot of maturity and experience in attacking those situations. I thought that was the key to the game."
"This time we executed down the stretch," he said. "We didn't have the critical turnover when the crowd got loud and hostile."
Air Force was outshot 51 percent to 46 percent, but made 24-of-33 free throws compared to CSU's 11-of-15. Colorado State coach Dale Layer said the 10-point first-half deficit against Air Force -- which plays a deliberate offense and leads the nation in scoring defense -- proved critical.
"You can't get down by 10 in the first half to Air Force," he said. "It's like getting down by 19 or 20 to anybody else." Layer added that "we're a different team without Matt and Micheal."
Kuhle scored 11 points in the first half to help spark Air Force to its 10-point halftime lead. Hood's 3-pointer and Kuhle's basket in the lane gave the Falcons an early 10-6 lead. Colorado State's Derrick Stevens hit a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to 16-14, but Air Force outscored Colorado State 14-6 the rest of the half.
The Falcons used a five-point possession to open up a 23-16 lead. Keller was intentionally fouled by Freddy Robinson and made both free throws. The Falcons retained possession, and Gerlach hit a 3-pointer from the corner with 5:15 remaining.
Air Force scored six straight points, including five by Kuhle, to forge its biggest lead of the half, 29-18.