Falcons and Rams lock horns in Mountain West opener
Fort Collins, CO (Sports Network) – Mountain West Conference foes meet in Fort
Collins tonight, as the 20th-ranked Air Force Falcons come calling on the
Rams of Colorado State.
Air Force is a near-perfect 13-1 on the season (tied for its best start ever),
and the Falcons come into this contest hoping to reverse a trend that has
them at just 5-21 all-time in conference openers. The squad has won nine in a
row, and is coming off a 78-48 pasting of Santa Clara on December 29th.
As for Colorado State, it is off to a solid start as well, winning 10 of its
first 12 games, including nine in a row. The Rams beat Chattanooga the last
time out, 76-65, to win Dr. Pepper Classic. CSU is a perfect 6-0 at home
but is just 1-5 in its last six league openers.
The Rams hold a 61-25 lead in the all-time series between the two teams,
but the Falcons swept the season series last year and have won each of the
last four meetings overall.
With four players averaging double digits in scoring, the Falcons continue to
plow through the opposition. Dan Nwalele and Jacob Burtschi share the team lead
with 14.4 ppg, and both are shooting the ball exceptionally well with the
former hitting his field goals 61.7 percent of the time, which includes a
stellar 56.3 percent effort from three-point range, and the latter hitting his
at a 54.1 percent clip. Burtschi has led the team in scoring in each of the
past four games and he also leads the team in rebounding at 5.7 rpg. Matt
McCraw and Nick Welch round out the offensive-minded quartet at 11.6 and 10.4
ppg, respectively, helping Air Force average 75.5 ppg behind 54.2 percent
shooting overall, which includes an impressive 45.7 percent mark from beyond
the arc. Defensively, the Falcons are yielding just 53.4 ppg while forcing
nearly 15 turnovers per affair.
Jason Smith has been the man for Colorado State here in the first half of the
season, netting 16.5 ppg while also doing the bulk of the rebounding work with
9.9 rpg. A 53.8 percent shooter from the field, the 7-0 junior is a tough match
for almost any defender, and his ability to control the paint makes the Rams a
very dangerous team. Tyler Smith and Stuart Creason are both averaging double
figures in scoring, checking in at 12.8 and 11.8 ppg, respectively, and Creason
has helped on the glass with his 6.1 rpg. As a team, CSU has done a fine job of
finding the bottom of the net, doing so 48.4 percent of the time, and as a
result the team is putting up 74.2 ppg. Foes are shooting just above 41 percent
against the Rams and are guilty of 17.8 turnovers per contest. The Rams,
however, are committing 18.3 giveaways per contest, a stat that will eventually
come back to haunt them as league play kicks into high gear.