Falcons try to extend nation’s longest home win streak
Colorado Springs, CO (Sports Network) – With BYU taking the weekend off, the
17th-ranked Air Force Falcons have a chance to assume the nation’s longest
home court win streak all by themselves as they face off against the Colorado
State Rams in a Mountain West Conference event from Clune Arena.
Both the Cougars and the Falcons have run off an amazing 29 straight
victories at home to this point, but with BYU sitting idle until Tuesday
when it challenges this same CSU program, Air Force has a chance to take over
the top spot all by itself. On Valentine’s Day the Falcons showed little love
to Utah as they crushed the visiting Utes in a 69-43 decision. The win was
the second straight and the third in the last four outings for a Falcons
squad that is currently second in the MWC standings at 9-3.
As for the Rams, who are in the middle of the pack with a 5-7 record in
league play, snapped a four-game slide on Tuesday night with a resounding 82-66
triumph against a weak TCU program at home in Fort Collins. Under the direction
of head coach Dale Layer, now in his seventh season, the Rams have never had
that much luck in the month of February, now showing a record of just 12-36
since his arrival.
Colorado State is in charge of the all-time series with the Falcons by a
count of 61-26, although Air Force won the first meeting of the season,
81-75, in the conference opener for both programs at Moby Arena. As a result
of that victory the academy has now taken five in a row from the Rams.
One of five players to score in double figures for the Rams, Jason Smith put
together a strong double-double with 18 points and 14 rebounds, both of which
were team highs in the victory over TCU the last time out. Stephan Gilling
chipped in 14 points off the bench Tim Denson 12 and eight boards, while Xavier
Kilby and Stuart Creason both contributed 11 points in the 16-point win. Tyler
Smith made just 3-of-9 shots from the field to finish with eight points, but he
also generated six steals and five boards along the way. Jason Smith and Tyler
Smith head the scoring list for the team with averages of 15.7 and 11.9 ppg,
respectively, with the former also pacing the group with his 8.3 rpg as well.
Scoring 74.1 ppg this season, the Rams prefer to do most of their damage close
to the key instead of on the outside, which is why the program is second-to-
last in the MWC in three-point field goals per game with a mere 5.6 per outing.
Another issues that has been holding CSU back this season is the fact that it
can’t seem to take control of the ball, resulting in 17.4 turnovers per game
Nick Welch stood his ground in the paint for the Falcons as they beat down Utah
on Wednesday night by 26 points at home. Welch finished with a team-high 20
points and grabbed six rebounds, and while he wasn’t always in the key, he did
manage to stretch the Utes defense by converting 3-of-4 chances behind the
three-point line. Dan Nwaelele chipped in 19 points and cleared another seven
rebounds, not to mention making a perfect 2-of-2 out on the perimeter. As a
team the Falcons converted 9-of-17 from three-point range and an even 50
percent from the field on the night. Nwaelele continues to be a force for the
Falcons this season from his 14.8 ppg to his incredible 50 percent shooting
behind the three-point line. But he’s not the only one able to make big things
happen from out on the perimeter because Jacob Burtschi (13.7 ppg) and Matt
McCraw (11.0 ppg) are converting 42.6 percent and 47.3 percent from three-point
range as well. As a team the Falcons are now fifth in the nation from beyond
the arc at 42.5 percent and when combined with a defense that is second in the
country with just 54.6 ppg allowing, it’s a deadly one-two punch.