Late basket lifts Rams in exhibition game

Richard Mackson-US PRESSWIRE

The Rams struggled for most of the game in their one-and-only exhibition matchup, but made up for it when it counted, earning a win against the Regis Rangers.

With Colorado State losing five seniors after the 2012-13 season, Saturday's exhibition match was the first time many players on the roster had played with each other, and it was apparent. The starting lineup featured returning players Jon Octeus, Joe De Ciman, Daniel Bejarano, and Gerson Santo along with junior transfer JJ Avila, but Eustachy was quick to go to true freshmen David Cohn and Carlton Hurst as well as transfer Marcus Holt.

The problems started from tip off as the Rams struggled to find any sort of rhythm on the offensive side of the floor and had lapses in focus on the defensive end. Despite Eustachy's desire to play up tempo basketball, Colorado State only had a single fast break bucket. It appeared none of the guards had confidence shooting the ball from the perimeter and Regis did not allow them many open looks. The Rangers also prevented the Rams from getting to the basket which led to a lot of motion around the perimeter that failed to produce a ton of scoring. In the first half, the Rams shot an acceptable 48% from the field, but on only 25 shots.

Defensively the Rams played tough inside, but had trouble giving open looks to players behind the arc, allowing Regis to shoot 5-8 from three-point range and 12-28 overall. The Rams finally started to get into a rhythm when they took the lead with five minutes to go in the first half, but let it slip away on a buzzer beater 3-point jumper from Kevin Marshall. With the first half over, the two teams went into the locker room with a stunned Moby Arena wondering exactly how tough this season might be for Rams basketball.

In the second half, the Rams found the answer to their scoring woes in former Navy forward JJ Avila. The Rangers had no answer for Avila as he scored in the paint at will with a myriad of moves. Avila played wire-to-wire en route to 25 points, 12 rebounds, and 5 assists. He was able to back players down at ease and had several very nice finishes at the rim. When Regis brought another defender down on him, he would either score anyway or make sharp passes out of the double team to the open man. It is safe to say the Rams have found their new double-double machine to replace Pierce Hornung and Colton Iverson.

Despite Avila's output, the Rams still could not establish consistency on either side of the floor and saw Regis' lead swell to 10 points throughout much of the half.

Down by 10 with four minutes to go in the half, the Rams finally started to turn it on. Jon Octeus hit a three pointer, and then turned around a stole it back on the other end. After a 30-second time out, the Rams scored six unanswered to cut the lead to one before a free throw by Regis put them up two 1:32 remaining. After a missed shot by Regis, the Rams rebounded it with 27 seconds left and gave it to Avila for the game winning shot. He backed down his man before turning and finishing to put the Rams ahead for the first time of the second half. A brilliant defensive effort from freshman Carlton Hurst made sure the Regis last second attempt missed and Colorado State survived a surprisingly dramatic scrimmage 70-69.

Quick Notes

In addition to Avila, Coach Eustachy played three players new to the program. David Cohn, a true freshmen from Chicago, led them with 32 minutes while scoring five points in that timeline. He was charged with carrying the ball up the court most possessions and handled it well in his first collegiate action.

Colorado native Carlton Hurst had five points and five rebounds to go with two assists in his 15 minutes, and had several very athletic finishes at the rim.

Marcus Holt from Paris Junior College was one of the most intriguing additions to the team in the offseason, but he looked comfortable in the rotation. He was stout defensively for the Rams and had two huge blocks on one possession. He will need to work on the other aspects of his game as he only scored 2 points and recorded a single rebound.

A monstrous dunk from Jonathan Octeus that saw him go completely over a Regis defender was SportsCenter worthy, but I can not find a highlight of it. Octeus finished with 17 points on 50% shooting.

Dwight Smith only played six minutes, all coming in the first half, in his first game back from a redshirt last season.

Daniel Bejarano struggled, only shooting 38% and picking up four fouls in addition to two turnovers.

Joe De Ciman had three turnovers and three fouls in only 14 minutes.

The Rams won the rebounding battle 35-29.

Regis shot 49% from the field, including 58% from behind the arc. They were led by Kevin Marshall who had 17 points. Regis beat fellow Mountain West school Air Force 70-65.

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