The Colorado State Rams did not shoot well, as they missed 14 three point shots and shot 53.8 percent from the free throw line in Wednesday night's game verse the Colorado Buffaloes. Colorado shot 5-9 from long range and 65 percent from the charity stripe. The Buffs had 14 more total rebounds than the Rams, which included 13 offensive rebounds compared to Colorado State's five. However, the Rams won the game 62-60 on the road in Boulder to get to 9-0 on the season to continue the best start to a season in school history.
So how did the Rams come up with a win? They shut down Colorado's best player and forced them to look elsewhere for scoring.
Colorado State entered the contest against a 5-2 Colorado basketball team that hadn't lost in Boulder. At home, the Buffs entered the game 5-0. While they struggle to find points on the road, the Buffs have been able to score 65 or more in each home game. That is, until the Rams came to town. With the loss of current Detroit Piston Spencer Dinwiddie, the Buffs knew it would take some time to find their go to guy. Seven games into the season, that guy became junior forward Josh Scott. Scott is averaging 16.6 points per game and 8.6 rebounds per game. Colorado State's game plan was to take him out of the game. And that is exactly what they were able to accomplish.
Big man Tiel Daniels was assigned the task of covering Scott for the majority of the game. Daniels isn't a top scoring option for the Rams, but his defense Wednesday night showed why he continues to hear his name announced in the starting lineup every night. Daniels and the Rams shut down Colorado's best scorer all night. Scott went 0-7 from the field and got his only points of the night on his one trip to the free throw line.
Early on in the game, it seemed as though the Buffs didn't need Scott to score. In the first half, Colorado shot 4-4 from three point range and led Colorado State 32-30 at the half. In a half that felt like Colorado dominated, the Rams were able to keep the game around five points until the end of the half when guard John Gillon got fouled while shooting a three point shot. Gillon sank all three free throws to tie the game at 30 with 4.8 seconds left. Colorado's Xavier Johnson was able to sneak into the paint in the next 4.8 seconds to score a last second layup to give the Buffs the halftime lead.
Colorado State started the second half on a mission. The Rams opened with a 6-0 second half run in the first three minutes of the second half to take a 36-32 lead. The Buffs went on a 6-0 run of their own over the next three minutes to take the lead back at 38-36. Two minutes later, Colorado State guard Gian Clavell sank a three point shot to give the Rams a 43-40 lead, and the Rams would lead for the remainder of the game.
Every time the Buffs would come close to tying the game, the Rams had an answer. Colorado State started pulling away towards the end of the game, and with 3:36 left on the clock J.J. Avila scored a layup to complete a quick 6-0 run to give the Rams a 57-49 lead, the largest lead of the night since the 13 minute mark of the first half when the Buffs were leading 14-6. With an eight point lead, some thought the Rams had done enough to put away the Buffs. But in a rivalry game like this, 3:36 is a lot of time.
Colorado guard Askia Booker came answered right back with a jumper 12 seconds later. The Buffs got a stop and on their next possession Booker put in a shot from long range and just like that the score was 57-54 with the momentum in the favor of Colorado. On Colorado State's next possession, guard Joe De Ciman answered Booker's three with a three pointer of his own.
The Buffs responded with four quick points to cut the deficit to two points with 45 seconds left. The Rams would go on to make only 2-6 of their next free throws. The Ram's defense, however, smothered the Buff's offense, making them earn every point down low and forcing them to take too many jump shots outside. While the Buffs were red hot in the first half with their jump shots, the second half they cooled down and the Ram's defense was strong enough to hold on to a 62-60 win.
Xavier Johnson for Colorado led all scorers in the game with 20 points. Booker added 18 points of his own. Scott ended up with just two points, and the rest of the Buffs offense combined for only 20 points. J.J. Avila for the Rams put on a spectacular performance. When the Rams were lacking offense, Avila was there to get the difficult basket. Avila, the Rams leading scorer on the season, led the team with 19 points. No other Colorado State players reached double digits on the night. Backup guard John Gillon had nine points, going 7-10 from the free throw line, while other reserve guard Gian Clavell had eight points. Daniel Bejarano ended the night 2-8 with eight points, while Stanton Kidd, Tiel Daniels and De Ciman each contributed six points.
The stats aren't pretty, but sometimes pretty stats don't win ball games. Out-hustling and good defense can win games when shots aren't falling, and that is exactly what the Rams experienced Wednesday night.
The win in Boulder was good for Colorado State's first road win of the season, not counting their 3-0 run in the Great Alaska Shootout at the end of November. The Ram's next game is Saturday, December 13th as they take on the Arkansas-Fort Smith Lions back in Fort Collins and attempt to get to 10-0. The game starts at 4:00 p.m. MST and can be seen on the Mountain West Network online.