In a way, the story of Wednesday’s Air Force-Colorado State game was a program tumbling into the abyss. CSU’s Rams have fallen down, and they won’t arise anytime soon.
But in a better way, the game was about a program that could be on the rise. Air Force defeated the Rams, 78-73, but don’t be fooled by the score. The Falcons were rolling for most of the game and spent nearly eight minutes of the second half with a lead of at least 12 points. Air Force was on its way to a dominating win, but couldn’t quite figure out how to close.
A youth movement led the way. Sophomores Lavelle Scottie, Ryan Swan and Sid Tomes combined for 53 points on 19-of-35 shooting. Scottie and Swan seized 16 rebounds, leading Air Force to a 35-33 win in the battle for missed shots.
Good times ahead?
Scottie says yes, with an exclamation mark.
“With us three, we can take over this league,” Scottie said. “That’s what I believe. I got a firm belief in that.”
Take over league? What do you mean, Lavelle?
"Being a top-three contender for the Mountain West championship-type team,” he answered. “We stand in the moment and make sure we’re not looking ahead but we know that once it’s our time we’re going to take care of our business.”
It was only one night. I get that. And this same sophomore trio was part of the disaster that was Saturday’s 81-50 loss to San Diego State.
But Scottie’s words do not roam into the realm of the impossible. If Scottie and Swan and Tomes keep improving, and remain enrolled at the academy, the Falcons could take a massive Mountain West leap. The trio could be that good. And the Mountain West is not the Atlantic Coast Conference.
That’s the upside of Tuesday’s game. A team that often wanders found itself, at least for one night.
The downside of the night was hard to watch. CSU fans usually travel in droves to Colorado Springs. In a crucial November football game in 2014, CSU fans outnumbered Air Force fans at Falcon Stadium.
Only a few dozen came out for Wednesday’s game. It was easy to understand why the Rams faithful stayed home.
CSU’s basketball program resembles Berlin after World War II. Coach Larry Eustachy, the most authentic and most out-of-control man in college basketball, is under university scrutiny for the second time since 2014. Let’s give him credit: Eustachy took CSU to the heights in the Mountain West.
Let’s also give him credit for directing the program into a state of disaster.
When the game ended, the Rams climbed on their big bus and staggered back through the darkness to Fort Collins and their season of doom. Eustachy can’t talk to the players he coached a few days ago, the players he recruited, the players he hoped would help him rule the Mountain West, and maybe beyond.
Meanwhile, the Falcons took the short trip back to their dorms. Better times beckon.