Rams’ losing skid extends to seven as Air Force sweeps season series

Colin Barnard

For the second time this season, Air Force’s rampant 3-point shooting proved too much for Colorado State to overcome in the Rams’ 78-73 loss to the Falcons.

Carvacho with jersey over head after the Rams lost
Colorado State interim coach Steve Barnes and sophomore forward Nico Carvacho react to the Rams’ 78-73 loss to Air Force Tuesday night. (Davis Bonner | Collegian)

With the loss, CSU has now dropped seven consecutive games, the team’s worst losing streak since the 2007-08 season during which the Rams lost 17 consecutive games. Air Force’s victory gives them a season sweep over CSU for the first time since the same 2007-08 season.

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“The biggest thing I was worried about today was watching the guys’ demeanor,” interim coach Steve Barnes said in the postgame radio show after coaching his second game in Larry Eustachy’s absence. “They’re taking it really hard. They’re bothered that they assumed it would work out, which is what a young person does.”

In what has turned into a tumultuous season, the Rams came into Colorado Springs looking to snap a six-game losing streak that began in Moby Arena on Jan. 17 against the same Air Force team. In the opening minutes of the half, the game settled into a fast paced, back-and-forth affair.

The first break did not come until the 11:06 mark of the first half as both offenses raced up and down the floor. As they did in the team’s first meeting, a comeback victory from Air Force, the Falcons found themselves with plenty of open looks on the offensive end. Particularly from the 3-point line, Air Force hoisted up shots with little contest.

After the first media timeout, CSU tightened up its defense for a brief moment. The Rams forced multiple turnovers and capitalized with dunks on the other end from Nico Carvacho and Raquan Mitchell.

Tied at 27 with 4:14 remaining in the half, CSU’s struggles to close halves once again proved costly. The Falcons strung together a 10-0 run to take the double-digit lead into the break.

Rather than turn things around at halftime, the Rams came out sluggish in the final stanza as Air Force capitalized on more uncontested shots. The Falcons regained a double-digit lead after back-to-back 3-pointers from Lavelle Scottie and Sid Tomes five minutes into the half.

CSU’s lethargic defense finally found life halfway through the second period. The Rams’ defensive intensity matched their offensive success as the 17-point deficit dwindled down to seven with 3:34 remaining.

The Rams attempted to make a final push at a comeback in the final minutes of the game, trimming the deficit to five on multiple occasions. That’s the closest the Rams got the rest of the game, however, as they failed to string together much-needed buckets while Air Force converted closing free throws.

In the game, Air Force made 12-of-26 3-pointers, the same number they made in the first matchup in far fewer attempts. CSU made just 6-of-21 attempts from beyond the arc. The Falcons also edged the Rams on the glass and outscored them 18-8 on second-chance points.

“We have to stay extremely positive,” Barnes said. “Every time I look at them (the players), I feel very confident in them. They just kind of lose it for a few minutes there and it gets us.”

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Che Bob and Nico Carvacho led CSU’s scoring charge with 16 points apiece. Carvacho notched his eighth double-double of the season by pulling down 12 boards, the big man’s 10th consecutive game with double-digit rebounds. Deion James (14) and Raquan Mitchell (10) both reached double figures.

Air Force’s trio of Sid Tomes, Lavelle Scottie and Ryan Swan paced the cadets’ efficient attack on offense. Tomes and Swan both scored 18, followed closely by Scottie with 17 as all three players shot north of 45 percent from the field. All of Tomes’ points came from 3-point range.

CSU’s next chance to end its woes will come Saturday afternoon against San Jose State, who currently sit in last place in the MW, just behind CSU. The Rams and Spartans will tip off at 2 p.m. in Moby Arena.

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