After back-to-back blowout losses, the Rams (14-6, 3-2) responded Saturday afternoon as they defeated the best in the Mountain West Aztecs (18-3, 4-1) 77-60.
Colorado State played their best possible team game and were able to hand San Diego State only their third loss on the season and the Moby Maniacs rejoiced by rushing the court.
To start the game, Colorado State came out with high-energy, moving the ball much better than in their previous two games, attacking the hoop for loose rebounds and shooting the rock highly efficiently.
Will Bell began the scoring with a 20-footer that hit nothing but the bottom of the net, and his sweet shooting was infectious as Kaipo Sabas and Dorian Green each hit two from behind the arc early. The Rams shot the ball so well, going on a 22-6 run to build their 30-17 lead, and their active defense helped them keep it.
CSU took the 40-28 lead over No. 13 SDSU going into halftime on the strength of 48.3 percent shooting while limiting their turnovers to only four in the first half.
In the second half, it was much of the same, as Colorado State continued to take it to the Aztecs, offensively and defensively.
The Rams ran their lead all the way up to 17 at one point, 46-29, but with 16 minutes left on the clock, the green and gold had to keep attacking.
They did just that, running to the rim with a reckless abandon to grab rebounds, while continuing to hit deep jump-shots.
It seemed every Ram contributed; Green sank threes, Greg Smith calmly made outside jumpers and Pierce Hornung put in put-back buckets. On the day, every starter scored at least eight points while four scored in double-digits.
It was as if everything went Colorado State’s way Saturday, and the Rams were stubborn down the stretch to hold off the potent Aztecs despite SDSU’s late push.
With a majority of the calls going the Aztecs’ way in the second half, the young Rams showed heart while keeping their composure in crunch time to win the biggest game during Tim Miles’ five-year tenure.
“It was a good win, but it’s just one win,” said Miles following the game. “We have to continually what we did today to end up where we want to end up, which is the NCAA tournament. We have two top-50 wins, Denver was 47, I don’t know what these guys are, 20-something, but it was a good win. We didn’t have any of these last year.”
It was the first time since March 11, 2004 that the Rams defeated a top-25 team, and this game certainly qualifies as a key victory in Colorado State’s hopes to make the NCAA tournament.
Junior Wes Eikmeier led the team in scoring with 19 while Will Bell added 17 and Green had 12 of his own. After shooting poorly in their last two games, the Rams were back to their usual selves, making 49 percent of their shots from the field on the day.
Most importantly, the Rams went 100 percent from the free throw line, going 23-23, a Mountain West record, to seal the victory in the end.
And the team rebounded the best they have all season, grabbing 40 boards to San Diego State’s 30.
Overall, this was beyond a shadow of a doubt the best game Colorado State has played all year and they look to continue the great play Wednesday as they face No. 12 UNLV in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Rich Kurtzman is a freelance journalist actively seeking a career in journalism. Along with being your CSU Rams Examiner, Kurtzman is also the Denver Broncos Examiner and writes for Blake Street Bulletin, Stadium Journey, Bleacher Report, and Mile High Hoops.
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