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3 keys for success as CSU basketball closes out regular season

In one week, Colorado State men’s basketball will go to Las Vegas with a goal of making a run at the 2020 Mountain West Championships. Before the tournament, however, the Rams have to take care of some housekeeping.  

First, Moby Arena gets to say its goodbyes to the three seniors on the team. Second, the Rams will host the Air Force Academy Falcons on Saturday for both teams’ final game of the regular season.

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The Falcons come into Moby sitting in ninth place in the MW. After the Rams dropped the close game with San Diego State on Tuesday, they enter Saturday’s game in sole possession of sixth place in the MW. A win at home against Air Force will provide some much-needed confidence for the Rams before the tournament.

Contain Lavelle Scottie

Lavelle Scottie is the Falcons’ leading scorer, as he averages 15.7 points per game. In Air Force’s narrow win against the University of New Mexico on Wednesday, Scottie scored 16 points (led the Falcons) on 7-13 shooting (2-3 from three).

Ryan Swan is the Falcons’ second-leading scorer with an average of 12.8 points per game. However, Scottie has scored 84 more points than Swan. While they are around the same in average points per game, Scottie is still the dominant scorer on the team.

Air Force does not have any other big scorers on its roster. If the Rams can contain Scottie and dare someone else to beat them in Moby Arena when the Falcons have only won three games on the road this season, they will be in good shape.

No more scoring droughts

The Rams have gone on extended scoring droughts more than a couple of times this season. In their first matchup against Utah State, the Rams were up 52-50 with 12:09 remaining in the second half. Then, the Rams did not score a point until the 5:43 mark. By then, the Aggies were able to get a 63-53 advantage.  

Head coach Niko Medved talks to senior Nico Carvacho after he is substituted out of the game. (Lucy Morantz | The Collegian)

Three days ago, CSU had a serious chance at upsetting San Diego State but failed to put the ball in the hoop near the end of the second half. At the 8:22 mark, the Rams were up 56-49. After nearly seven minutes and a Nico Carvacho layup, the Rams were down 62-58.

Yes, basketball is a game of runs, and most teams will go scoreless for a duration of the game. However, the teams that go on the largest scoreless runs will not win many games. Obviously Air Force is not compatible with SDSU or USU, but now would be a good time to get the offense rolling.

Protect the three and shoot the three

It is no question that the 3-point shot has developed into a large portion of offense in modern-day basketball. Air Force has successfully made the 3-ball prominent in its offensive attack. 

The Falcons rank third in the MW for 3-point field goal percentage with 37.5%. The main 3-point shooters for Air Force are Caleb Morris, A.J. Walker and Swan. 

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While the Falcons live by the three, as many teams do, they also die by the three. Air Force ranks last in 3-point percentage defense, meaning they allow more threes than any other team in the MW (allowed 291 on 36.9%).

The Rams rank right behind the Falcons in the fourth spot for 3-point field goal percentage.  CSU also ranks in the bottom half of defending the 3-point shot (seventh). The Rams have allowed 258 threes on 33.9%.

The Rams really need to defend outside of the paint if they want to keep Air Force under wraps. Make them go inside and try to score on the Rams’ trees down low (Carvacho, David Roddy and Dischon Thomas). A big part of the Rams’ offensive attack on Saturday should be making that extra pass and finding someone in 3-point territory.

The Rams will also celebrate seniors Carvacho, Hyron Edwards and Kris Martin for senior night. It will be an emotional night for these three.  

“They’re great guys,” coach Niko Medved said. “The reason we’ve had a great season like we have, it’s those guys. It’s their willingness to allow the young guys to shine and be who they are and accept them.”

“It’s starting to become surreal,” Carvacho said. “You know, five years here, you know I gave them my all. Walking down to Moby for the last time … will be tough, but I love the guys, and it’s been a fun ride. But we’re not done yet.”

Tipoff is set for 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 29. 

Tyler Meguire can be reached at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @TMeguire

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