(Highlights by Olivia Landis/CTV Sports)
The Colorado State men’s basketball team (6-3) got back on track Wednesday night with a 97-72 drubbing of visiting Arkansas-Fort Smith (7-1) in front of 2,523 fans at Moby Arena.
After losing three consecutive games, including an 88-77 defeat to in-state rival Colorado in which CSU held a 13-point halftime lead, the Rams were in search of a much-needed victory.
“I thought we made some progress,” head coach Larry Eustachy said. “We’re a work in progress. We’ll go to work hard the next three days before we play a Northern Colorado team that’s hard to beat anywhere.”
After a sluggish start, CSU scored 49 second half points and shot 58 percent from the floor in the game.
The turning point of the game occurred when freshman guard Prentiss Nixon came off the bench to give CSU a much needed spark through several outstanding hustle plays.
After a missed shot, Emmanuel Omogbo batted a loose rebound past half court near the sideline. Nixon saved the ball back in-bounds and in the process hurled himself over the scorers table and into the front row. After Joe De Ciman made a three, Nixon drew a charge on the following possession. From this point forward, the momentum of the game swung in the Rams favor. Nixon may have suffered a concussion during the game, according to Eustachy, and will be evaluated further in the coming days.
“Prentiss was the difference in the game,” De Ciman said. “You saw him flying all over the place, flying out of bounds. He’s special. We saw him diving off on the floor, taking charges. We fed off of him.”
CSU had four players reach double digits in scoring, led by 23 from Gian Clavell and Antwan Scott. Scott buried five 3-pointers, and the Rams made 14 as a team. Omogbo chipped in 18 to go along with seven rebounds, and John Gillon added 12 points.
The Lions came out hot taking an early 18-14 with 11:47 until halftime behind four 3-pointers. They would lead by as much as nine before the Rams rallied. Over the course of 5:20, CSU scored 20 points and knocked down four threes of their own to take a 41-39 lead, their first of the contest. Clavell paced the Rams with seven points during the run.
The first half saw both teams shoot an astounding clip from behind the 3-point line. Both squads combined to shoot 16-30 outside the arc. CSU went 9-for-16 from downtown, and shot 51 percent from the floor to take a 48-42 advantage into the intermission.
CSU then came out of the locker room firing, blowing the game open with a 15-5 run to take a 63-47 lead five minutes into the half. The rest of the half was smooth sailing as CSU continued its hot shooting while scoring 34 points over the final 15 minutes.
Following a tough loss to the Buffs, CSU went back to the drawing board and practiced hard, as they did in the preseason.
“Sunday was rough for everybody,” De Ciman said. “We had a great practice Tuesday. We got pushed hard. We practiced how we did in the preseason, worked on our toughness and our physicality. It showed tonight in spurts.”
The Rams will have a few days off before traveling to Greeley, Colorado on Sunday to take on Northern Colorado at 5 p.m. MT.
Collegian Sports Reporter Michael Roley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @michael_roley.