CSU upset by Air Force for first time since 2011

Colin Barnard

The Colorado State men’s basketball team did something it had not done since 2011 Wednesday evening: lose to Air Force.

Nixon driving
Prentiss Nixon (11) tries to drive by two Falcon defenders during the second half of the Rams’ 76-71 loss to Air Force. Nixon left the game with an apparent ankle injury. (Javon Harris | Collegian)

CSU defeated Air Force in 12 consecutive games entering the night as head coach Larry Eustachy looked to move into second place all-time in wins at CSU. Despite leading for nearly 30 minutes of the game, the Falcons completed the comeback upset, defeating the Rams 76-71.


Air Force’s ability to take and make 3-pointers ultimately led to the victory. The Falcons made 12-of-39 shots from beyond the arc compared to 5-of-17 for CSU. Timely offensive rebounds and 3-pointers in closing minutes of the game allowed Air Force to fend off the Rams.

“They made some tough, contested shots,” Eustachy said. “The shots they made late, we were there. We knew how to play them, and when we played them right they didn’t score. When we played them wrong, they scored a lot.” 

The icy air in Fort Collins made its way into Moby Arena for the majority of the first half as both teams failed to find a rhythm in the early going. Playing into its 3-point tendencies, Air Force hoisted up shots from deep with reckless abandon. The Falcons started just 1-of-16 from beyond the arc through the opening 12 minutes of action.

Regardless of their inability to find the bottom of the bucket, the Falcons kept the deficit to single digits as the Rams failed to capitalize on chances in the paint.

One thing that remained constant through the first half was Nico Carvacho. The big man affected every facet of the game and dominated the Falcons on the glass. He nearly notched a double-double in the first half alone, registering 10 points and eight rebounds. A continuing trend, Carvacho also proved lethal as a facilitator, connecting on a crisp backdoor pass to Prentiss Nixon.

After Air Force’s slow start shooting, the Falcons found a rhythm and hit five of their next six 3-pointers to trim the lead to 33-31 at halftime.

The cold stretch followed CSU into the second half as the Rams endured a nearly four-minute scoring drought in the opening portion of the half. Tied at 44 with 11 minutes remaining, the Rams finally shook off the shackles. Deion James hit a pull-up jumper and, on the next possession, knocked down a 3-pointer. Following a miss from Air Force, Prentiss Nixon punctuated the 8-0 run with a 3-pointer of his own.

Despite having all the momentum in the world, CSU failed to run away with the game. With under three minutes remaining, Air Force’s Jacob Van hit a corner 3-pointer to give the Falcons their first lead since the opening minutes of the game. The Rams briefly regained the lead before losing it the next possession as Lavelle Scottie made another 3-pointer of similar fashion. 

Trevor Lyons, the game’s leading scorer, made a mid-range jumper two possessions later and Air Force executed its free throws in the closing minute to finish the Rams for good. 

“We had them. We were up eight with less than 10 minutes to go,” Carvacho said. “(We) let them hit some 3s, let them get fouled. We didn’t take advantage of opportunities that we had and I think they took advantage of that.”


Lyons scored 22 points on 7-of-9 shooting and made all four 3-pointers he took. Van also hurt the Rams from deep, making 3-of-5 3-pointers on his way to 15 points. 

Nixon paced the Rams with 18 points while dishing out seven assists. More importantly, though, the team’s leading scorer was helped off the floor, unable to put weight on his left leg after landing awkwardly on his ankle. Nixon already wore a hefty knee brace on his right knee after suffering an injury against San Diego State on Jan. 2.

“It’s swollen really bad,” Eustachy said. “He was in there on crutches after the game crying. That’s the kind of guys we have.”

Carvacho finished with 12 points and 13 rebounds for his fourth consecutive double-double before fouling out with under two minutes to play. Deion James joined him with 11 points and 14 rebounds.

CSU takes the floor again Saturday afternoon in a conference battle against UNLV. The game is set to tip off at 3 p.m. in Moby Arena and will serve as the team’s annual Orange Out game.

Collegian sports editor Colin Barnard can be reached by email at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @ColinBarnard_.