Now all Colorado State can do it wait.
Despite an abysmal shooting performance in the first half, CSU used a 23-2 run midway through the second half to knock in-state rival Air Force 87-73 Saturday afternoon on Senior Day at Moby Arena.
The win, which moved the Rams to 16-15 overall and 8-10 in Mountain West play, all but guarantees CSU’s streak of eight consecutive years without a losing season will stay intact. It also sets the Rams up with the possibility of earning the No. 6 seed in next week’s Mountain West conference tournament if both UNLV and Utah State lose later Saturday. The Rebels face off against conference leader San Diego State while the Aggies
Senior Antwan Scott added 17 points on 4-for-11 shooting, while Joe Ciman, who leaves CSU as the winningest player in school history, pitched in seven points, nine rebounds and five assists.
Yet it was two juniors, guard John Gillon and forward Emmanuel Omogbo, who stole the show Saturday, with Gillon scoring a game-high 22 points and dishing out eight assists, while Omogbo notched 18 points and five rebounds.
The Falcons (14-17, 5-13 MW) came ready to play in the first half though, taking their first lead at 13:59 mark of the first half and holding it for nearly 20 minutes of game action. CSU didn’t help itself any in the first half, shooting just 21.6 percent from the field, but the Rams trailed by just three, 25-22, heading into halftime.
“I think it was just a combination of jitters and we weren’t executing the game plan to start the game,” De Ciman said of CSU’s struggles in the first half. “We were messing up switches, they were slipping and getting to the basket. We just had to settle down and do what we were supposed to do, and we did.”
After letting the Falcons extend their lead to as many as eight early in the second half, CSU finally turned it on offensively, using the 23-2 run over more than seven minutes to turn a six-point deficit into a 15-point lead with 10:25 to play. Air Force never cut the deficit to less than 10 the rest of the way as the Rams closed out their regular-season finale with their 10th win in a row over their in-state rivals and their 14th win in the last 15 games against Air Force. CSU notched its highest single-half point total of the season with 65 points in the second stanza, in which they outscored the Falcons by 17 points.
The Rams shot a scorching 65 percent from the field in the second half, including 9 of 13 from behind the arc and 22 of 26 at the free throw line.
Now CSU must wait for the results of the Utah State-Fresno State and UNLV-San Diego State games to find out its seeding for Wednesday’s tournament games. The Rams can still finish anywhere from No. 6 to No. 8 in the final standings, and could face Wyoming, Air Force or San Jose State.
At least according to CSU head coach Larry Eustachy, the Rams would love another shot at the Cowboys, who they have lost five games in a row to.
“We’ve lost to them five straight times, and a smart guy would say all you need is a sixth straight time, and three (losses to them) in one season and they’ll really be on your a**,” Eustachy said. “But I like competition, and I like a challenge. I want to prove we can beat (Josh) Adams, and we might not be able to. … But we’d like to, and I think they’d like it.”
Collegian Senior Sports Reporter Keegan Pope can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @ByKeeganPope.