Colorado State basketball has been through a roller coaster of emotions over the past week. Many experts believed they were an NCAA tournament team after the Rams experienced their best season in school history with 27 wins. Come Sunday, the Rams were left out, however, they received a number one seed in the National Invite Tournament (NIT).
On Wednesday, Colorado State hosted the eigth seeded South Dakota State Jackrabbits at Moby Arena, and from the tip-off, the Rams looks uninspired to play. South Dakota State got off to a hot start in the first half, and led by as many as 15 points. Colorado State did build some momentum going into halftime when Gian Clavell hit a three point shot as time expired to bring the lead down to nine points.
The Rams came out of halftime with a little spark, going on a quick six point run, but the high percentage shooting from the Jackrabbits was just too much to overcome. South Dakota State went on a nine point run of their own to bring their lead back to double digits, and they dominated the rest of the game, coming out with an 86-76 win in the first round of the NIT. Led by George Marshall, who scored 24 points, and Deondre Parks, who added 17 of his own, the Jackrabbits shot just over 44 percent from the field and 42 percent from three point range.
The Rams, who are typically a strong three point shooting team, struggled from long range, shooting 5-22 for a season low 22 percent. Add in a 56 percent performance at the free throw line, and you can understand why Colorado State struggled to match South Dakota State on the scoreboard. For all the negatives that came from this game, the Ram's three seniors all had solid performances in their final games as in the green and gold. J.J. Avila ended his career with a double-double, netting 19 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. Stanton Kidd added 14 points and eight rebounds and Daniel Bejarano scored 17 with nine rebounds. The difference maker was the lack of production from Mountain West's sixth man of the year John Gillon, who didn't score a point on 0-3 shooting.
Overall, it was a disappointing way to end the best season in school history, but I won't let that change my opinion on the season as whole. Avila will go down as one of the better players in school history, and Bejarano had a good senior season to end a solid career as a Ram. Colorado State will have a lot of work to do in 2015 to replace the production of Avila, Kidd and Bejarano, but head coach Larry Eustachy has built a good program in Fort Collins and Ram fans can expect to see another competitive team in the 2015-2016 season.