GREELEY • Jason Smith stood and chatted with Rytis Petraitis after the game. He didn't know the stakes of the team's matchup with UNC-Greeley, or why it meant so much that Petraitis had just nailed down two free throws to clinch a win.
All the former NBA reserve and Colorado State graduate knew was how hard that moment is: standing at the line with under 10 seconds left and a one-point lead. The Falcons' freshman came through, fresh off his second consecutive Mountain West Freshman of the Week honor, to down the Bears at Bank of Colorado Arena on Tuesday, 67-65.
Joe Scott and his team knew how important the road duel with an in-state foe was. It represented a chance to win their first road game on the third try this year. It was also the last game before the conference season begins against San Diego State.
Getting the win, at last, was based on Scott's day-to-day message of how to win a road game: It takes everyone.
Petraitis' free throws came after two from Corbin Green, and just minutes after Jake Heidbreder missed three straight — something the Falcons may have never seen before, practice or otherwise. He did his part, though, with a team-high 17 points.
In the postgame, Scott seemingly said every name on his roster and listed off a contribution they made to the win.
The block in question, or not: pic.twitter.com/5jafZm2c55— Luke Zahlmann (@lukezahlmann) December 21, 2022
Green's final block completed the communal effort, and Jeffrey Mills' proceeding knockout ensured it wouldn't be for naught.
"These guys have grown up over these 13 games," Scott said. "The chemistry and belief in themselves is rising. Even when we went down after holding the lead for a while, they had confidence. Jake missing three free throws is something I may never see again in my life, and we didn't fold."
Bears' guard Riley Abercrombie gave the Falcons their proverbial turning point.
With 2:15 left, he nailed down a 3-pointer to give the Bears a three-point lead. The shot ignited the crowd of 1,601, spurned the final media timeout, and sent the Falcons to the bench with a deficit and their thoughts.
Against Bowling Green and Portland State, the moment downed Air Force.
But the Falcons, if they want to win in the Mountain West, will need those moments to elevate them.
"We work so hard, and we've lost a couple of games on the road because of moments like that," Petraitis said. "Road teams will always make their run, they have the crowd with them. That 3-pointer hurt, but we're a year stronger and smarter. We came together as a team and didn't let it happen again."