The Colorado State Rams hosted their rival, the Wyoming Cowboys, at Moby Arena on Wednesday night for round one of the Border War. The Rams (14-1, 1-1) and the Cowboys (13-2, 2-0) were both looking for an important early conference win in what is appearing to be a close Mountain West Conference race this season. The game featured arguably the best player in the conference in Larry Nance Jr. of Wyoming, who is averaging 15.7 points per game and 6.5 rebounds per game. To counter Nance, the Rams feature J.J. Avila who averages 13.8 points per game along with 7.1 rebounds per game.
In front of around 8,500 fans, the Cowboys were the team that got off to a hot start. Josh Adams scored the first six points for Wyoming which helped set the pace for the first half. The Cowboys got out to a 16-11 lead in the first 10 minutes of the half. Colorado State countered with five quick points before Nance scored four consecutive points to give Wyoming a 22-16 lead with four minutes left in the half. Colorado State's John Gillon controlled the next minute of game play with four points and an assist to Avila for an easy layup to tie the game at 22 a piece. A technical foul by Ram's head coach Larry Eustachy gave the Cowboys some momentum that carried them to a 31-26 halftime lead on the road.
Nance and Avila dominated the scoring in the first half. Both Nance and Avila scored nine points in the first half. Nance, however, appeared to suffer a right leg injury in the last minute of the first half and was struggling to apply pressure to his leg as he left the court. Nance did end up starting the second half, though he was clearly hurting.
Wyoming got off to a quick 8-0 run to start the second half with a three point shot by Charles Hankerson Jr., two free throws by Adams and an open dunk by Derek Cooke Jr. With a 12 point lead two minutes into the half, the Cowboys clearly took control of the game while the Rams struggled to find any offense.
The Rams finally found some scoring from Stanton Kidd and Avila who were able to keep the game within 10 points early in the second half, but the slow pace of the Wyoming offense made it difficult for Colorado State to cut into the lead. For a majority of the second half, Wyoming attempted to chew time off the clock, not getting into an offensive set for the first 20 seconds of many of their offensive possessions. The slow pace of the Cowboy offense pressured the Rams offense to scramble for quick points.
Free throws by Daniel Bejarano and a steal and score by Gian Clavell helped the Rams cut into the second half lead. The Rams cut the lead to seven points as they got the score to 44-37 at the 10 minute mark of the half. Forcing three straight empty possessions for the Cowboys, the Rams attempted to start a run to get back into the game.
Get back into the game the Rams did, as Clavell scored four points in two possessions to cut the score to 44-41 with 7:30 left in the game. Wyoming suffered a big blow as Nance received his fourth foul near the six minute mark, which allowed the Rams to cut the score to 49-48 with five minutes to go. Clinging on to a two point lead, Jason McManamen hit a three point shot with 17 seconds left to give the Cowboys a 59-54 lead. After a missed shot by Gillon, Wyoming got the rebound, and Adams added a free throw to give Wyoming a 60-54 win over Colorado State.
Nance led the Cowboys with 15 points and six rebounds, as his leg injury slowed him down in the last 20 minutes of play. Hankerson scored 13 for the Cowboys on a 3-6 night shooting from long range, and Adams added a 13 total points and five assists in a solid night for the junior guard. Backup guard McManamen added eight points on 2-2 shooting from beyond the arc.
Avila led all scorers and rebounders in the game with 23 points and seven rebounds as he dominated in the paint in the second half. Though Avila had good game, no other Rams reached double digits in scoring. Bejerano continues to struggle in conference play as he shot 1-6 for only four points. Kidd, who has also started to struggle since the beginning of conference play, shot 3-11 for only eight points. Gillon, who usually gives the Rams a spark off the bench, only scored four points after shooting 0-6 from the field.
For a majority of the game, Colorado State shot poorly from the field. After shooting 6-25 from behind the arc in their first loss of the season against the New Mexico Lobos, the Rams struggled again from long range, shooting 2-14 from three point range. While Wyoming didn't necessarily have a dominant shooting performance, their 45 percent night was significantly better than Colorado State's 34 percent. Colorado State fought hard in the second half to get the lead back to only one point, but the Rams failed to ever tie the game in the second half.
Clinging on to a hard fought rivalry game win, the Cowboys move to 14-2, 3-0 on the season while winning round one of the Border War. Though Wyoming managed to let Colorado State get back into the game, it was still a great performance by the Cowboys to finish out the game with a win. Nance didn't look like the same player in the second half, as his right leg injury seemed to slow him down. For Wyoming, Nance is the key component for them to continue their strong start in conference play, as they begin a stretch of winnable games, starting with the Boise State Broncos at home on Saturday, January 10th. The matchup between the Cowboys and the Broncos tips off at 7:00 pm MT and can be seen on CBS Sport Network.
With the loss, Colorado State drops their second straight game since starting the season with 14 straight wins. Now at 14-2, 1-2, the Rams are looking to bounce back after a rough start to conference play. Colorado State has a three game span of winnable games over the next 10 days, starting with a trip to Colorado Springs on Saturday, January 10th for a matchup against the Air Force Falcons. The Rams will look to find their shooting touch again, after failing to score 60 points in two consecutive games. The matchup between the Rams and the Falcons tips off at noon MT and can be seen on Root Sports Rocky Mountain.