“Tonight we learned how to find a way to win.”
-Colorado State coach Tim Miles
“The difference in the game was we just couldn’t put the ball in the basket the second half. We had open shots.”
-Air Force coach Jeff Reynolds
Those were brief excerpts from tonight’s post-game interviews. And I think – in tandem – they help explain tonight’s result.
We’ll start with Reynolds’ quote. Yes, Air Force couldn’t put the ball in the basket in the second half. After making 10-of-23 shots (43.5 percent) from the floor before halftime, the Falcons made just 4-of-22 shots (18.2 percent) after halftime.
But part of that, I think, has to do with the fact that Air Force has not yet – to use Miles’ quote – learned how to find a way to win. If they knew how to find a way to win, maybe they knock down one of the open looks they had down the stretch. Maybe they get to the free throw line one more time. Maybe they avoid a careless turnover. Maybe they get one extra stop.
The Falcons have dropped 26 of 28 games against MWC foes the last two seasons (including the tournament). And during that time they’ve found numerous ways to lose. But they haven’t learned how to win.
And, unfortunately, there’s no crash course, no Cliff’s Notes for this. There’s no way to learn how to win except by winning.
-It was really brutal to watch Air Force unravel.
Seems like most times a team comes from behind to win a game, it makes a decisive run. Colorado State, however, just chipped away and chipped away as the Falcons became unable to score.
-A quick note on the Falcons’ last possession with a chance to tie:
Down 50-47, Air Force forces a missed shot by Colorado State (and a subsequent 35-second violation) and then calls timeout with 27.3 seconds left.
Reynolds said he wanted to try to get a quick 2-point bucket. But that’s not what happened. The Falcons moved the ball around the perimeter and eventually settled for a contested 3-point shot by Evan Washington that missed.
“Three freshmen, I think, were on the floor that last play, and we really wanted to drive the ball there because we had  seconds,” Reynolds said. “We knew they wouldn’t foul us, and we went a little brain dead.”
-A potential rivalry in the making: Air Force’s Todd Fletcher vs. Colorado State’s Dorian Green.
Both freshman point guards already are running their respective teams. Both have plenty of upside and moxie. And both should be playing in the MWC for the next three years. It will be fun to watch them go head-to-head the next few seasons.
-Reynolds praised freshmen Michael Lyons (seven points and four rebounds but four turnovers) and Taylor Broekhuis (seven points, three rebounds), who played 28 and 23 minutes, respectively, though “they’ve been really sick.”
-Kudos also to senior forward/center Grant Parker, who scored a game-high 13 points despite playing with a sore left shoulder. Parker’s left arm popped out of and back into its socket during Monday’s practice.
-Washington matched a career-high with eight rebounds but missed 10-of-13 shots from the floor, including all four of his 3-point attempts.