The first round game of the GCI Great Alaska Shootout between the 3-0 Colorado State Rams and the 2-1 Missouri State Bears officially tipped off at 12:22 a.m. MST, making it 10:22 p.m. in Alaska. Entering the game, the Rams were expecting to face the nation's top scorer in Bear's junior guard Marcus Marshall, who is averaging 26 points per game. Unfortunately for Missouri State, Marshall was held out of the game due to a knee injury. Even without Marshall, the Bears proved to be a tough task early on for the Rams due to their high energy and ability to create second chance opportunities. The Rams dominated the second half to get the 76-61 Thanksgiving Day win.
After a long two days for both the Rams and the Bears due to the long trip out to Anchorage, the game got out to a sloppy start. Throughout the first half of the game, both teams looked to be falling out of their offensive sets, opting for a poor three point shots or long range two point shots rather than moving the ball. Both teams were shooting under 35 percent from the field in the first half.
Colorado State's offensive numbers in the first half were helped out thanks in large part to good free throw shooting. The Rams shot 10-12 from the charity stripe in the first half, helping them get out to an early 20-7 lead. When running the offense, Colorado State was most efficient when getting the ball into J.J. Avil's hands. Avila scored eight points in the first half, converting on two of his three ‘And One' situations.
The early exit of big man Tiel Daniels with two early fouls helped the Bears get back into the game. Already the smaller team, with Daniels standing at 6'7" compared to Missouri State's center Tyler McCullough's 6'10" frame, Colorado State lost their best presence down low, which allowed the Bears to create multiple second chance opportunities to keep the Bears with ten points in the first half.
The Bears went on a 9-0 run midway through the first half, as the Rams went scoreless for five minutes. Avila broke Missouri State's run with a basket and a foul, and the Rams went on a 9-3 run of their own to make the halftime score 29-19. Poor passing and too many turnovers hurt the Bears as they couldn't close the gap before the half.
Opening the second half, Missouri State was showing that they weren't going down easy, as they started the half off with a quick 5-0 run to bring the score to within five points. Colorado State got the lead back up to ten points before another 5-0 run by the Bears got the score to 36-31 with 12 minutes left in the second half.
That is the time Avila took over for the Rams. Good ball movement by guards Daniel Bejarano and John Gillon allowed Avila to drive to the basket for multiple layups. Avila took control of Colorado State's scoring in the second half, recording 13 second half points as the Rams got out to a 58-44 lead with seven minutes left in the half.
With Colorado State's leading scorers Bejarano (17.7 ppg) and Stanton Kidd (16.3) struggling to make much noise, Avila and Gillon put the team on their backs. Gillon had 13 second half points, efficiently shooting the ball from three point range. Kidd scored his first points of the game at the 11:25 mark of the second half when he sank two free throws. Early foul trouble by Missouri State put the Rams in the bonus near the midway point of the second half and Colorado State was able to run away with the game.
Getting multiple trips to the line, the Rams shot 18-21 from the free throw line while the Bears attempted to play catch up by relying on the three point shot. Failing to make many of their long range attempts, the Rams led by 12 or more from the seven minute mark of the second half until the end of the game, eventually winning the game by the score of 76-61.
Avila led all scorers on the night with 21 points while recording 11 rebounds for his first double-double of the season. Gillon had his best game of the season with 20 points off the bench. Kidd ended with only six points, going 6-6 from the free throw line while Bejarano scored only six points as well. The only other Ram in double figures was Joe De Ciman who scored ten points. Guard Dorrian Williams led the Bears with 16 points. The Bears, who kept it a game early on, really missed the scoring ability of Marshall in this game as they were able to get the score close but never break the five point mark.
With the win, Colorado State moves to 4-0 on the season and advances to the semi-finals of the Great Alaska Shootout. The Rams will face the Pacific Tigers who knocked off the host Alaska Anchorage Seawolves with a 71-62 win. That game will be played on Friday, November 28th at 7:30 p.m. MST. It can be found on CBS Sports Network.