FORT COLLINS - In his 26th season as a college basketball head coach, Larry Eustachy picked up his 500th career win. Colorado State knocked off Air Force at Moby Arena Saturday afternoon by a final score of 85-58.
The Rams (11-6, 3-1) cruised to victory in the second half, outscoring the Falcons 52-30. It allowed for a brief postgame celebration at midcourt between Eustachy and his players.
But to the Rams' coach, Saturday meant more to one of his players than himself. The tragic story of Emmanuel Omogbo dealing with the deaths of a number of family members, including his parents, has been well-documented. When it happened last year, Omogbo played the very next day against Air Force.
"In one phone call, Emmanuel's innocence was taken away," Eustachy said. "And he went from the baby to the man of the family. That's really the story here. From that time to this time, the way that man has grown is incredible. This is more about Emmanuel than myself."
The senior forward latched on to Eustachy as a mentor and the two have since formed a unique bond. So instead of keeping the game ball for himself, Eustachy gave the ball to Omogbo.
"It means a lot to me," said Omogbo. "He's been there like a second dad for me. A lot of people have been there for me, but he's really been there for me the whole time and with everything going on."
The game itself, as it's so often been this season for the Rams, was a tale of two halves. CSU went into halftime leading 33-28 and ended the first half on a 7-0 run. But they allowed Air Force to score 18 of their 28 points inside the paint.
CSU came out on fire offensively in the second half. After scoring the first 10 points coming back out of the locker room, the Rams started to pull away at 45-32.
Eustachy's bunch would only expand on that, growing their lead seemingly every possession. The Rams shot an eye-popping 63 percent in the second half, including 9-of-16 from 3-point range.
Gian Clavell knocked down five of the team's 14 makes from beyond the arc. The senior guard finished with 28 points on 9-of-18 shooting.
Meanwhile, Omogbo turned in his customary double-double, his eighth of the season. In 28 minutes, Omogbo totaled 14 points on 5-of-7 shooting to go with 10 rebounds.
Prentiss Nixon also put together a huge performance, reaching the 20-point mark on 8-of-17 from the field, including 4-of-9 from 3-point range.
CSU took advantage of a sloppy Falcons team that turned the ball over 18 times. The Rams turned those mistakes into 26 points. Air Force was also without one of their best players in Hayden Graham.
As he's done with Omogbo, Eustachy explained how important his relationships are with his players and how that has played a part in reaching such a milestone.
"You don't get a team to play that hard over all these years if they don't know that you care about them," Eustachy said. "My biggest pride is my player-coach relationship."
Eustachy's record now sits at 500-312. He sits alone in 62nd place all-time. But the veteran coach, who spent time at Idaho, Utah State, Iowa State and Southern Mississippi prior to CSU, isn't concerned with being on lists.
"It's not about 500 wins," Eustachy said. "It's about the success and the failures and the getting back up. And I'm the poster boy for that."
BY THE NUMBERS
2 - Total minutes by Devocio Butler, Che Bob and Kimani Jackson, who will no longer be eligible to play following next week's tilt with New Mexico due to their academic ineligibility.
11 - Consecutive wins for the Rams over the Falcons
5 - The number of 3-point makes for the Falcons out of 19 attempts.
CSU will enjoy a full week off from game action before returning to Moby Jan. 14 for a noon tipoff with New Mexico.