Colorado State got a huge break Wednesday when a dangerous Wyoming team lost to No. 10 Air Force in the opening round of the Mountain West tournament. The Rams had no trouble beating the Falcons in the quarterfinal round by a score of 81-55 Thursday night from Thomas & Mack Center.
With the win, CSU advances to the semifinals and matches up with the winner of Boise State/San Diego State. Once again, Air Force was unable to solve the green and gold puzzle. Since Larry Eustachy took over the head coaching duties five years ago, the Rams are a perfect 10-0 against their rivals down the interstate.
The Falcons got off to a hot start to begin the game, similar to what they did Wednesday night. Air Force made five of their first six shots, allowing them to grab an early lead. But Gian Clavell and Braden Koelliker sparked an 11-0 CSU that put the Rams out in front.
Air Force then got stuck in a 2-for-8 stretch before a Hayden Graham 3-pointer put an end to a scoring drought of 4:48. The Falcons went on a mini 8-0 run to retake the lead at 24-23 with 7:48 to play in the first half.
It was all CSU the rest of the way. The Rams went on a 16-2 run to end the first stanza, taking advantage of a 1-for-10 stretch by the Falcons. Air Force went nearly eight minutes without scoring.
CSU took a 39-26 lead into the locker room and never looked back.
As was seemingly the story of the game, Eustachy's crew continuously went on runs while Air Force constantly found itself in lengthy scoring droughts.
Though the Rams didn't need his late-game heroics, they got one of the most efficient performances of the season from Clavell. The senior guard finished with a Mountain West tournament record 30 points on 10-of-16 shooting to go with seven rebounds in 29 minutes.
Eustachy also saw Nixon (15), Omogbo (12) and Nico Carvacho (10) reach double figures.
Tipoff between CSU and the winner of SDSU/Boise State is set for 10:30 p.m. Friday. In regular season play, the Rams knocked off the Aztecs twice with last-second shots and lost twice in the final seconds to the Broncos.