The Colorado State Rams were unable to overcome uncharacteristic turnovers, foul trouble and a 28-point night from All-American candidate Spencer Dinwiddie in a 67-62 loss to the Colorado Buffaloes in front of a frenzied crowd in Moby Arena Tuesday. The loss ends the Rams' 21-game non-conference home winning streak while also dropping them to 6-3 on the season, while the Buffs improve to 8-1.
On a night when second-leading scorer Jon Octeus spent large chunks of the game on the bench due to foul trouble, the other members of Colorado State's big three -- juniors J.J. Avila and Daniel Bejarano -- came up huge in the hard-fought rivalry matchup. Avila -- clearly the Rams' best player in the early part of the season -- led the team with 16 points, 11 rebounds and three assists, while Bejarano added 15 points of his own. But the game belonged to Dinwiddie, who consistently found ways to score in key situations, putting the Buffaloes on his back on the way to the victory.
After a sluggish back-and-forth start, both teams began to find a rhythm offensively in the last ten minutes of an uptempo first half. A seven-point run put the Buffs ahead 19-12 with just over seven minutes left in the period, but head coach Larry Eustachy's Rams fought back, outscoring Colorado 22-11 in the final minutes to enter the half with a 34-30 lead.
The teams continued the breakneck pace coming out of halftime, with Dinwiddie scoring six points in less than two minutes to tie the game at 40 with 16:54 left in regulation. The Rams then held on a small lead for much of the half, but three-pointers from CU freshman Jaron Hopkins allowed the Buffs to first draw even at 55 with 4:33 left, then jump out to a 58-57 lead less than a minute later.
The Rams were never able to regain the lead as Dinwiddie again took over, scoring seven of Colorado's last nine points and sending Colorado head coach Tad Boyle and the rest of the Buffaloes out Fort Collins with their second-straight win over their in-state rival and eighth-straight victory overall.
Askia Booker chipped in with 12 points for Colorado, while Hopkins finished with 10. Aside from Avila and Bejarano, no Ram scored more than Gerson Santo's nine on a night when the team shot a lowly 33 percent from the field.
After coming into the game averaging less than eight turnovers per game, Colorado State failed to take care of the ball on their home court, giving the ball away 18 times. And Octeus -- who averaging over 13 points per game entering the matchup -- was only able to contribute four points in the contest, picking up fouls early in both halves. He wasn't the only Ram in foul trouble, as Santo and Joe De Ciman were also forced to miss significant time.
Eustachy has said since the preseason that this year's team would be a work-in-progress, and the Rams look to be much improved from the very beginning of the season, taking a good, experienced Pac-12 team in Colorado down to the wire in what could be considered a strong effort. When the tough Mountain West Conference season begins in just a few short weeks, however, moral victories may much feel harder to come by.