DeLovell Earls made it clear when he returned from a leg injury that he desperately wanted to return to the starting spot he earned last season.

That hasn't happened, but unlike last year Earls is playing starters' minutes.

In two road games this past week, the junior co-captain showed his value now that he seems fully healthy and fully accepting of his role as the sixth man.

In a win against San Jose State, Earls provided a late defensive lift, knocking the ball loose on a steal with 11 seconds remaining and securing the three-point victory with a block at the buzzer.

In helping the Falcons give a scare to No. 5 San Diego State, Earls had the most complete game of his career with 10 points, nine rebounds and six assists. The Colorado Springs School graduate also had a steal and committed just one turnover.

"He may not be the best scorer on the team, but he definitely picks up all the things that we struggle with - assists, rebounding," junior co-captain and fellow Colorado Springs native Kamryn Williams said. "He does all the little work. Without him we would really struggle."

It was a struggle for Earls to get to this point. Stress fractures in his tibia required offseason surgery. He made his debut in the 11th game of the season, but even then he was practicing sporadically and played more than 20 minutes in just one of his first nine games. During this period he also struggled with a shoulder injury.