CU men’s basketball preview: Air Force
MATCHUP: Air Force Falcons (3-1) at Colorado Buffaloes (5-0).
GAME TIME: Sunday, 2 p.m., Coors Events Center.
BROADCAST: Radio — 760 AM (740 AM in Colorado Springs); TV — Pac-12 Network.
COACHES: Air Force — Dave Pilipovich, 6th season (75-95 at AFA and overall); Tad Boyle, 8th season (154-95, 210-161 overall).
LEADERS: Air Force — Scoring: F Ryan Manning, Jr., 12.8 ppg; Rebounding: G Trevor Lyons, Sr., 5.8 rpg; Assists: 3.8 apg. Colorado — Scoring: G McKinley Wright, Fr., 15.0 ppg; Rebounding: G George King, Sr., 7.6 rpg; Assists: Wright, 4.6 apg.
NOTES: CU sophomore forward Lucas Siewert, who ranks second on the team with five rebounds per game, remains doubtful due to an ankle injury he suffered last week at the Paradise Jam…The Buffs are 23-3 all-time against AFA with an 11-2 mark at home. CU has won the teams’ past seven meetings…The Buffs are 5-0 for the 14th time in team history and the first time since the 2012-13 season…King needs two 3-pointers to reach CU’s top-10 list for all-time made 3-pointers. He ranks second all-time with a 3-point percentage of .400…Sophomore Pervis Louder scored 13 points in the opener for Air Force but has missed the past three games due to injury…CU will have another slow week before visiting another state rival, Colorado State, on Dec. 2.
In some ways, a few of the early games have proven to be the same old story for Tory Miller-Stewart.
In other ways, however, the senior forward from the Colorado men’s basketball team believes his reputation is beginning to precede him.
Through the season’s first five games Miller-Stewart, the Buffaloes’ premier post player, has contributed reasonably productive minutes. However, as has been the case through much of his CU career, those minutes often have been limited due to foul trouble. While Miller-Stewart professes his innocence at some of the calls that have sent him to the bench early in a few games so far, it nonetheless is a trend Miller-Stewart hopes to curtail as the Buffs host Air Force Sunday at the Coors Events Center (2 p.m., Pac-12 Network).
“I’m not where I want to be because of the foul thing,” Miller-Stewart said. “Honestly I’ve gone back and looked at some of those clips and I’m definitely doing a better job being in good position. But reputation-wise, it can carry over some. I think I’ve got to just keep playing through it and hopefully my reputations changes to where I’ll stay solid and stay on the floor.”
Miller-Stewart leads the Buffs with a field goal percentage of .647 (11-for-17) and his early scoring average of seven points per game currently ranks as his career-best. He also is getting to the free throw line at a career-best pace, though he has struggled once getting there (13-for-22).
Yet in a pattern that has typified his career, Miller-Stewart has spent more time on the bench than either he or head coach Tad Boyle planned on. A couple of early fouls in the second game of the season against Denver helped limit Miller-Stewart to season-low totals of three points in 17 minutes, though Boyle did empty the bench late in a blowout win.
Miller-Stewart committed only one foul in the first half of CU’s victory against Mercer in the title game of the Paradise Jam, yet he still fouled out with 4 minutes, 38 seconds remaining after recording just five points and three rebounds.
Always a shrewd self-critic, Miller-Stewart still is attempting to continue his solid per-minute production through longer stretches on the floor.
“I’m very harsh when it comes to myself, and personally I haven’t been productive for me,” Miller-Stewart said. “At times I’ve shown spurts, obviously. I’ve got to be able to be counted on to show up. I do it in practice, it just has to translate to games.”
The Air Force contest presents an opportunity for Miller-Stewart to perhaps get on track, as Boyle believes it is an opponent his Buffs should dominate on the glass. CU has outrebounded four if its five opponents so far, and a much smaller Falcons team enters the game averaging 35 rebounds a game compared to 39 per game for the Buffs.
“Defensively they try to keep you off balance so we’re trying to prepare for a lot of different things,” Boyle said. “And offensively, they do a lot of different things to confuse you defensively, so we have to have a high level of concentration on the defensive end of the floor, otherwise Air Force will make you look silly.
“I would expect and challenge our guys to really dominate the glass. Because this should be a big number plus-wise for Colorado rebounding if we do our jobs.”
Pat Rooney: email@example.com or twitter.com/prooney07