The Colorado State Rams scrapped out a victory over the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos in the championship game of the Great Alaska Shootout by a final score of 65-63. The Rams faced foul trouble with both of their bigs, J.J. Avila and Tiel Daniels, sitting the majority of the second half with four fouls. That forced Colorado State to go to a smaller lineup than they are used to using, allowing the size Santa Barbara take advantage of the Rams.
The first half saw back and forth basketball. Neither team led by more than five points in a game that saw Santa Barbara lead 33-32 at the half. Avila led the Ram charge on offense in the first half while Gaucho center Alan Williams dominated the game down low.
The second half saw the referees take control of the game for the majority of the half. Both teams entered the bonus at the 12 minute mark of the game. These fouls put Avila, Daniels and Daniel Bejarano into foul trouble for the Rams, while guard Zalmico Harmon for the Gauchos fouled out with just over four minutes left in the game. Fortunately for Colorado State, they are a pretty good free throw shooting team and they were the team that was able to take advantage of the plentiful amount of trips to the charity stripe. The Rams shot 23-27 for an 85.7 percentage while Santa Barbara shot 10-16 for 62.5 percent.
With Avila sitting the majority of the second half, Stanton Kidd and Gian Clavell led the Rams in the second half. The momentum of the game changed near the seven minute mark of the second half. The Rams were able to get multiple stops on the defensive end and Kidd and Clavell sank back to back three point shots to take a five point lead. However, the Gauchos kept the game close, never falling behind by more than five.
Kidd sank one of two free throws to give the Rams a 62-60 lead with 55 seconds left. A travel by Santa Barbara's DaJuan Smith with 25 seconds left gave Colorado State possession. This forced the Gauchos to foul, putting John Gillon on the line with a chance to give the Rams a four point lead. Gillon made the first free thorw and missed the second, and Gaucho's guard John Green nailed a three pointer to tie the game with nine seconds left on the clock.
The Gauchos made a big time mistake when Michael Bryson fouled Gian Clavell at half court with five seconds left. Clavell made both free throws and the Rams pressed the Gauchos inbound attempt forcing Gaucho's center Alan Williams to shoot a prayer from way behind the three point line. The shot was wide of the rim and buzzer went off, giving the Rams the 65-63 win.
Gaucho's center Alan Williams led all scorers in the game with 22 points. The Rams had five players in double digits on the night, led by Kidd's 14. Clavell, Gillon and Avila each had 13 points while Bejarano notched a double-double with ten points and 11 rebounds. The Rams had three players named to the Great Alaska Shootout All-Tournament Team in Bejarano, Gillon and Avila. UC Santa Barbara's Alan Williams was named the tournament's most outstanding player.
Even though this tournament didn't feature any high profile teams, getting the extra wins in November and winning an early season tournament only helps Colorado State's NCAA Tournament resume if they are a bubble team come March. Not to mention that any time you get extra work and meaningful minutes as a team with so many newcomers to the rotation, it has to be considered a successful trip for the program.
With the win, Colorado State moves to 6-0 to open the season. This is the second time in three seasons the Rams have started 6-0, with the last time coming during the 2012-2013 season which saw the Rams beat Missouri in the Round of 64 before losing to eventual NCAA champion Louisville in the Round of 32.
Colorado State now heads back to Fort Collins for a much needed three days off before they take on the 4-0 UTEP Miners at Moby Arena on Wednesday, December 3rd. The Miners are playing in the Wooden Legacy Tournament championship against the Washington Huskies on Sunday before traveling to Fort Collins. The game between the Rams and the Miners tips off at 7:00 p.m. MST and can be seen on Root Sports.