Air Force's Coggins will play, but not start, against Colorado State

By Brent Briggeman Updated: February 7, 2014 at 8:30 pm • Published: February 7, 2014 | 8:00 pm 0

Tre' Coggins is set to return for Air Force.

The point guard is finished with a three-game suspension, the reasons for which have not been specified, and will come off the bench against Colorado State in a 2 p.m. game at Clune Arena on Saturday.

"He's not starting, but he will play," coach Dave Pilipovich said. "We're looking forward to having him back in action. He's had some very good days of practice and being with his team. We're looking forward to him being a big part of what we do here not only tomorrow but in the future."

The team desperately needs its leading scorer.

In three games without Coggins, all losses, Air Force shot just 18 of 66 (27 percent) from 3-point range. Coggins is the Mountain West's leader in 3-point percentage (44.5) and 3-pointers made per game (2.7).

Coggins' return puts Air Force back at full strength for its matchup with the Rams, and they'll need it. No team in the conference tends to test the undersized Falcons in the same way as Larry Eustachy's squads, and the contrasting styles have produced two straight tremendous games.

The Rams won 89-86 at Clune Arena last year, then came from five points down in the closing minutes to hold off the Falcons 74-68.

Colorado State ranks third in the conference in offensive rebounds, while Air Force is 10th. The Rams parlayed those offensive boards into an 11-5 advantage in second-chance points in the first matchup this season, which proved to be the difference in the game.

Coggins won't likely contribute in that area, but if he can help lift the team from its collective slump then perhaps it will provide some margin for error.

The suspension of Coggins came at an inopportune time for the Falcons, who started 2-0 in the conference but have since dropped seven of eight, but it has shown that Pilipovich - fresh off a five-year extension and with just one senior on the roster - is clearly working toward larger goals than what this season can provide.

"We want to win games, that's our main goal, and we want to win some games soon," Pilipovich said earlier this week. "But we've got to keep developing, work on fundamentals - passing, dribbling - because the long-term goal is to be better next year, too, and keep developing down the road but not compromise where we are now. We're still on the same path."

A win over an in-state rival that has won five straight in the series would surely help to illuminate that path after a rough stretch has left it darkened.

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