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Streak-busting Air Force basketball team takes aim at long skid against Colorado State

January 16, 2018 Updated: January 16, 2018 at 5:02 pm
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Colorado State's Prentiss Nixon shoots as Air Force's Pervis Louder defends during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the Mountain West Conference tournament Thursday, March 9, 2017, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)

FORT COLLINS – Air Force’s two-year road losing streak ended at Denver in December.

Its three-year Mountain West road skid was snapped at San Jose State on Saturday.

On Wednesday, the Falcons can go after a 12-game losing streak to in-state rival Colorado State.

“It would be nice to check another box,” said coach Dave Pilipovich, who has beaten everybody in the Mountain West except the Rams.

Air Force’s last victory over Colorado State came Feb. 26, 2011, and it hasn’t won at Moby Arena since 2008 – a span of nine games that have been decided by a leave-no-doubt average margin of 18 points.

But this year might be different, as Air Force has shown at various points. Sure, victories at Denver (No. 272 in RPI) and San Jose State (No. 319) were important in breaking streaks and building confidence but are hardly a convincing argument that the Falcons (No. 260) should be able to compete with the Rams (No. 124).

But since Air Force has begun taking its offense through Lavelle Scottie and Ryan Swan, it has shown to-the-final-minute competitiveness against Nevada and UNLV and then traveled to beat the Spartans. In short, the Falcons have looked like an average Mountain West team over the past two weeks.

Average may well be good enough to compete with a Colorado State (10-9, 3-3) team that has been very much average at times during a season in which it has been forced to replace first-team all-Mountain West forward Emmanuel Omogbo and the league’s Player of the Year, guard Gian Clavell.

However, the Rams have already won three road games in the Mountain West (at San Jose State, at Utah State and at Wyoming) and Pilipovich sees the same style as any other Larry Eustachy-coached team.

“They play really hard,” Pilipovich said. “That’s how his teams are, they defend and they play really hard. We’ve got to match their toughness.”

Prentiss Nixon has picked up the scoring load, averaging a team-best 17.9 points for Colorado State.

While the Rams figure to bring much of the same, this is a Falcons team with a vastly different makeup than when the teams last met in the regular season Jan. 7, 2017 in Fort Collins. Scottie played just 12 minutes in that game, scoring one point, while Swan had yet to debut.

That sophomore tandem is averaging 28.9 points in Mountain West play this season, shooting 50 percent from 3-point range but also bolstering the Falcons’ ability to score in the paint.

The different approach has brought about different results at multiple points, and the Falcons hope Wednesday will provide another example.

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