Colorado State returns to game action for the first time in nearly one month on Tuesday night.
The Rams, who entered the top 25 poll four weeks ago, were derailed by COVID-19 on Dec. 11.
After the long layoff, the 20th-ranked Rams remain ranked and will put their 10-0 record on the line when they host Air Force in their Mountain West Conference opener in Fort Collins, Colo.
“We’re really starting a whole new point, 0-0 in conference,” Colorado State’s Dischon Thomas said. “It feels strange, and it’s almost like — I don’t want to say numb — but I think our guys are just itching to get back out there, and I don’t think it matters where we’re ranked or anything. It’s hey, let’s just go play.”
Colorado State has matched its third-longest winning streak in program history, one shy of its second-longest since 1997-98. The Rams are ranked in the top 25 for the fourth straight week for the first time in school history. But they haven’t been tested on the court since rallying from an 11-point deficit for a 66-63 win against Mississippi State on Dec. 11.
Games with Tulsa, New Mexico and No. 15 Alabama were postponed but despite the long layoff, the Rams are still the Mountain West’s leading offense at 83.4 points per game and the league’s most accurate shooting team at 53 percent.
“You know that we’re getting ready to start conference play and when you go into conference play you tend to play against people who know each other really, really well and the intensity level ramps up,” Colorado State coach Niko Medved said. “So just the fact that it’s opening Mountain West play is a big challenge for us and coming off a pause is a challenge but our guys have really hung with it.”
David Roddy leads the conference at 20.4 points per game and is second at 58.9 percent shooting. Roddy scored 19 points apiece in each of Colorado’s most recent games against Mississippi State and Saint Mary’s.
Colorado State has won the past six meetings and 18 of the past 20 with Air Force (8-4, 1-0), which averages a league-worst 58.4 points per game but also gives up 59.3 points.
The Falcons have scored fewer than 60 points eight times but have been held under 50 in four straight games. They snapped a three-game skid of double-digit losses when they eked out a 49-47 win over Utah State last Wednesday by allowing 32.7 percent from the field and 1 of 19 from 3-point range,marking the sixth time they held an opponent under 40 percent.
AJ Walker scored 16 points against Utah State while Jake Heidbreder added 14 and Nikc Jackson got 12 rebounds as Colorado played without Joseph Octave and Lucas Moerman, who were in the COVID-19 protocol.
“It’s a great way to start league play,” Air Force head coach Joe Scott said after the Utah State game. “For our guys to come out and do what they did was really impressive, having the ability to stay in the game. We’re proud of them.”
–Field Level Media