Playing without starting senior guard Dorian Green for the first time all year, CSU struggled in its Mountain West Tournament first-round match up with Fresno State but managed to pull out a thrilling 67-61 victory in Las Vegas.
Filling in much of the scoring gap left by Green was senior guard Wes Eikmeier, who scored a game-high 18 points, three of which came at the most critical time for the Rams.
With time running down, Eikmeier dribbled up the right wing and nailed a long three pointer that gave CSU a six-point lead with 1:05 left in the game that the Rams held on to.
Fresno State, the seventh seed in the Mountain West Tournament was able to give the No. two-seeded Rams fits throughout the game in large part because of the play of junior guard Tyler Johnson, who had a team-high 14 points in the game.
The Bulldogs were able to get out to a 39-36 lead at halftime while taking advantage of the Rams’ poor shooting performance.
Junior reserve guard/forward Jerry Brown Jr. led the Bulldogs with his eight points and three rebounds to the early lead and had the second-place Rams on the ropes going into the locker room at halftime.
“I made it clear time and time again what I think of (Fresno State coach) Rodney (Terry), he’s a great coach,” CSU coach Larry Eustachy said. “Our team knew who we were going to play today, that it was going to be very difficult.”
Fresno State was able to take advantage of CSU shooting just 34.6 percent from the field and 20 percent from three point range in the first half, but improved those numbers to 47.4 and 42.9 percent respectively in the second half.
“That first half didn’t really show what we were capable of,” Eikmeier said. “I think the second half our team really responded, played really well.”
Fresno State entered the game on Wednesday fresh off a 61-52 upset at the Thomas and Mack Center against UNLV and continued that momentum into the first half in its game against CSU.
“I think it carried over for a little bit,” Johnson said. “Down the stretch, unfortunately we didn’t make all the plays that we were supposed to to come out on the right end.”
The victory Fresno State had over UNLV ensured its first round game with CSU, and following the announcement of the match up, Eustachy said that the Bulldogs were “just about the last team we’d want to play,” and Fresno State proved to be no first round pushover.
The CSU victory ensures that they will face UNLV in the second round of the tournament on the Rebels’ home court Friday night at 9:30 p.m. MT after the Rebels were able to beat Air Force earlier today.
“Obviously, we tried it here once and couldn’t do it,” Eustachy said.
“We’ll be without Dorian. We’re going to practice and prepare as if we don’t have him, which I think is a 99.9% chance he won’t. That makes it even more difficult.”
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