Colorado Springs – When No. 24 Colorado State traveled south to Air Force, they should have been ready for a battle.
Saturday afternoon's game was a close contest between bitter Mountain West Conference rivals; the Falcons wanted nothing more than to beat the ranked Rams.
It was quickly clear Air Force wasn't intimidated by CSU, and Michael Lyons prolific scoring was amazing. Through the first 15 minutes of the game, Lyons seemed to never miss; he started 10-14, 5-9 from downtown, and scored 25 of the Falcons 31 points. At that point, they trailed by only three to CSU, but when Lyons picked up his second foul, he had to sit for the last five minutes of the half.
Colorado State took advantage when Lyons was out; Pierce Hornung scored seven straight points and Dorian Green sank a three-pointer to send the Rams into the break up 48-40.
In the second half, Lyons came back out hot; he put up eight quick points and closed the Rams lead to 57-54. But six straight points by Colton Iverson pushed that lead to 65-58 midway through the second period. From that point on, it was a physical fight for both squads as neither wanted to walk away from the emotional contest the loser.
Air Force continued to hit three-pointers relentlessly, while CSU attacked inside and controlled the painted area. On the day, Colorado State out-rebounded AFA 39-23, led by Hornung's 15, and scored 34 of their points in the box.
But it was Wes Eikmeier's clutch three-pointer with 1:26 left put the Rams up 80-72, it was the nail in Air Force's coffin. After lots of fouls and free throws, the Rams eventually won 89-86.
With the win, Colorado State improves to 21-4, 8-2 MWC, winning their sixth straight contest. Air Force falls to 15-9, 6-5 MWC with the loss.
Lyons led all scorers with 45 points, a new career-high, and it was the most by a Falcons player in the school's history. Green's 22 were the most by a player in green and gold. In all, CSU had five players score in double digits, compared to only one for the Falcons, as it was a compete team win Saturday afternoon. And from the free throw line, they were spectacular, going 26-34.
"This is our third road win in league play and we had one last year," head coach Larry Eustachy said following the victory. "So, our team has bought in totally to how you win. I would have liked to have the game end a little quicker...I just thought it was a fun game, that's what it's all about, it went down to the wire. It was one of the better games we've been in in a long time."
"I mean they're crucial to winning this league," Green said of the team's now three road wins within the conference. "You've got to go on the road and win, and then you've got to protect at home. Protect at home, steal them on the road, is what we say."
Next up for CSU is another road game against UNLV Wednesday at 8 p.m. MT.