That Air Force game includes a highly disciplined and effective motion offense, and a determined defense. Combined, the Falcons showed up Colorado for nearly the entire contest.
CU jumped out to an early 4-0 lead, scoring on its first two possessions of the game. Air Force tied the game at 4 at the 15:30 mark in the first half.
"It was 4 to 4 there for quite a while," CU head coach Ricardo Patton said afterwards, looking for something positive to hang on to. "Then they went on a run."
Yeah. An 18-0 run. In fact, counting the Falcons' first four points, it was a 22-0 run. Second half, same thing. Air Force outclassed CU during a 22-0 run.
"We wanted to attack their zone (defense)," Patton offered when asked what he tried to get his players to do to stop the bleeding. But more often than not – particularly in the first half – CU settled for outside shots. And they weren't falling.
The Buffs shot 22.7 percent from the floor in the first half, just 34 percent for the game. That include 3 of 17 from beyond the arc. Air Force countered by shooting 57.1 percent from the field. When they weren't finding open shots in the lane, AFA hit 13 of 25 3-point attempts.
Under Patton, Colorado's offenses have been at their best when their defense has created turnovers and they were able to get out and run. Air Force took care of the basketball Saturday, giving up just three turnovers in the first half, 13 by the end of the game. CU's first points off turnover came well into the second frame.
So futile were the Buffs, the 46 points were the lowest they've scored since scoring 35 in a Big 12 tournament game vs. Texas in 2000. The 11 points CU managed in the first half is the fewest since they scored 4 on the road at Missouri in 1980.
No CU player scored in double digits. CU sports information personnel couldn't determine directly following the game the last time that had happened. They did note, however, the last time CU lost back to back games by 30 points or more (CU lost 106-65 at New Mexico Tuesday) was during the 1993-94 season.
Freshman point guard Kal Bay didn't mince words.
"We just need to come out and be tougher out there," he said. "We were a little soft out there."
Patton pointed to CU's youth as the reason for CU's struggles.
"We're young," he said of his squad that includes eight freshmen. "We're still trying to find ourselves."
But Patton praised his freshmen for playing tough in the second half before calling out the upperclassmen.
"Our freshmen are getting better," he said. "There's some other guys who need to step up."
For the many longtime critics of Patton over the years, Saturday's game was a perfect example of what's wrong with the offenses he puts on the court. Air Force moved the ball, and its players moved effectively without the ball. The Falcons scored several times on back-door cuts to the basket fed by bounce passes. When CU finally collapsed its defense, the Buffs left shooters wide open on the perimeter, and Air Force hit their shots.
It led to 21 assists for the Falcons. Remarkably, AFA's leading scorer coming into the game, senior Jacob Burtschi, scored just 2 points, but led the Falcons with five assists.
Meanwhile, CU often settled for passing the ball around the perimeter and either shooting long jump shots or going one on one. The Buffs' off-ball movement rarely led to a scoring opportunity.
Of course, the Buffs may not play another team this year that runs as disciplined an offense as Air Force. And the Falcons players have been running this system for several years. But AFA head coach Jeff Bzdelik said that's only part of the reason they won.
"Experience matters to a point," he said. "Just to a point."
Bzdelik said Air Force was successful because they know who they are and the stayed within themselves.
"We need to cherish every possession (on offense), and play with a desperate energy on the defensive end," he said.
They did, and came away with the blowout win.
Points: Jermyl Jackson-Wilson 9, Xavier Silas 8
Rebounds: Jackson-Wilson 7
Assists: Richard Roby, Bay 3
Turnovers: three tied with 3
Blocks: Roby 2
Steals: Roby 2
Points: Tim Anderson 24
Rebounds: Dan Nwaelele 6
Assists: Jacob Burtschi 5
Turnovers: four tied with 2
Steals: six tied with 1