March 09, 2017
Senior guard Gian Clavell scored 30 points to lead second-seeded Colorado State to an 81-55 victory over No. 10 seed Air Force in Thursday's quarterfinal round.
The 26-point margin of victory by the Rams tied for the third largest win in Mountain West tournament history. The victory advances Colorado State (22-10) into Friday night's late semifinal, where it will face the winner of Boise State and San Diego State.
"I give these guys a ton of credit right here for being ahead of their years as far as maturity and really locking in in a place that can be distracting, and not be distracted," said Colorado State coach Larry Eustachy, who is now 4-0 in the quarterfinals as coach of the Rams. "And Air Force, they showed what they could do yesterday going on a (game-opening) 25-0 run (against Wyoming). For us to do that to that team was very impressive in my mind, it was seven guys and I'm really proud of them."
Also scoring in double figures for the Rams were Prentiss Nixon with 15, Emmanuel Omogbo with 12 and Nico Carvacho, who had 10 points and led the team with nine rebounds.
Clavell topped the 30-point plateau for the third time this season, and fourth time in his career. It was also the 11th time he topped the 20-point mark and 18th time in his career. He also continued streak of hitting at least one 3-pointer in a game to 19, tying a previous personal streak record.
"I'm just playing my game," said Clavell, who combined to score 58 points and hit 11 3-pointers in two games against Air Force this season. "I'm a very confident player so ... if I like it, I shoot it. (Coach) always says that. 'If you're open, you like it, shoot it.' They are a very defensive team, too. It's always hard to play against them."
Clavell, who averages 19.5 points per game, shot an impressive 62.5 percent (10 of 16) from the field, including 6 of 11 (54.5 percent) from the 3-point stripe. His six 3-pointers marked the 12th time this season he has hit three or more treys in a game, and the 19th time in his career.
"He has a lot of freedom, and that's what we recruit to: if you can make it, you can take it," Eustachy said about Clavell. "But he discounts, he really did a great job of distributing the ball early. He moved the ball well, got it out of his hands. We talked a lot about kind of the LeBron James theory, where, LeBron won't take a shot in the first quarter sometimes, he gets his teammates involved. And Gian, I thought does a great job of getting his teammates involved. And obviously late clock he's our best, and you want him shooting it.
"He's been extremely coachable. He's having fun out there. That's a good observation. He's having fun. And I'm having fun coaching him."
After trading buckets over the first six minutes of the contest, and falling behind 16-12 early, the Rams went to work, paced by Clavell and sophomore Braden Koelliker. The pair combined to score the game's next 11 points, pushing Colorado State ahead by seven, 23-16.
Air Force (12-21) wasn't done, though, and used an 8-0 run to move ahead 24-19. It would be the last lead the Falcons would see, as Colorado State closed the first half on a 16-2 run and take a 39-26 lead into halftime.
"Gian is not the only one having fun. They like each other, which isn't mandatory, but it helps," Eustachy said. "It really helps. They get along. They have each other’s back. It's obviously been an up-and-down season with a lot of events. And I've often said people have tried to break us, but this team has not even bent, let alone break."
Which was evident after the intermission, as the Rams surged to a 20-point lead over the first three minutes of the second half, 46-26. The Falcons did their best to stay with Colorado State, which had the league's second-best scoring defense during the regular season, but Clavell was clearly on a mission.
During a span of 6:23, the 6-foot-4 shooting guard from Puerto Rico scored 14 of Colorado State's 20 points, as the Rams maintained their 20-point lead, and eventually extended it to 28, with 9:23 left in the game, at 69-41.
The Rams' lead swelled to 30 at one point, as Eustachy's troops were on cruise control most of the second half.
"There's an extremely bright future for Air Force basketball," said Graham, a departing senior. "There's some talent on this team that maybe hadn't been around Air Force before. And you can see glimpses of it from certain people. And for Scottie, he plays a lot, and he's going to have a great future here at Air Force.
"I'm excited to follow it, see it. I'll be around the program next year, because I'll be down at the prep school and still at the Academy. I got these guys to get to points that haven't been reached before. Ask and everybody believes in them."