On Saturday afternoon, the Colorado State Rams (14-8, 6-3) defeated the San Diego State Aztecs (11-9, 3-5 MW) at home 78-77 in a thriller. Coming into this matchup, the Aztecs were plagued by more injuries as forward Zylan Cheatham sat out and was in a walking boot during shootaround.
In the first half, the two teams looked evenly matched as they traded baskets in the opening minutes of the game. The momentum shifted when highly touted Malik Pope took the ball full court for a slam dunk that forced the Rams to call a timeout and put the Aztecs crowd on their feet with 12:01.
Despite Cheatham’s absence, the Aztecs needed someone else to step up. Washington State transfer Valentine Izundu saw more minutes and delivered an emphatic reverse dunk and a few major blocks that excited the crowd. Dakarai Allen led the Aztecs with 9 points and the Aztecs led 33-23 heading into halftime.
In the second half, the Aztecs continued to keep a comfortable lead around 10 to 12 points in the first five minutes. However, the Rams were persistent and never let the game get out of hand. Specifically, they would go on a 9-3 run that closed the gap at 53-51 with 10:34 remaining.
Rams’ forward Emmanuel Omogbo’s three-point shot tied the game at 64, which was the first tie since 5:13 in the first half. In addition, senior guard Gian Clavell was dominant throughout the game and down the stretch for the Rams. He went on to score the Rams final 12 points in the final 3:32, which included the game-winning layup with 3.8 seconds. A final heave at the buzzer by Jeremy Hemsley hit the back of the rim and left the Aztecs stunned after conceiving a 13-point halftime lead.
For the Aztecs, Pope had a solid game with 19 points and 7 rebounds, and Hemsley added 17 points and 3 assists. Meanwhile, Rams’ forward Omogbo had a career best 24 points and 9 rebounds.
Player of the game:
It is an easy decision to award this to Rams’ Gian Clavell, who finished with a career-high 37 points, along with 8 rebounds and two blocks. Whenever the Rams needed a basket, Clavell would deliver. From sinking several fade away jump shots and three pointers, he was clutch when the Rams looked for someone to step up.
SDSU: The Aztecs will look to bounce back after another loss and face Wyoming at home on Tuesday night.
CSU: The Rams will look to win their fourth straight when they face Boise State on Tuesday at home.