Behind by a balanced scoring effort with six players hitting double figures led by Jon Octeus and Gerson Santo with 16 points apiece, the CSU men’s basketball team rolled to a 95-68 win over Prairie View A&M in the second game of the Colorado State Challenge. After relying heavily on standout forward JJ Avila to carry the load in Friday night’s win over Northern Colorado, CSU spread the wealth around with an impressive 20 assists on 27 made baskets.
The Rams (4-2) stepped on the gas early, taking their second and final lead of the game at the 16:46 mark of the first half, and never let up while leading by as many as 30 midway through the second half. In one of their most efficient halves in recent memory, CSU shot 65.4% from field and 50% from the 3-point line en route to a commanding 49-31 halftime lead. Likely the most impressive performance of the night came from senior center Gerson Santo who scored a career-high 16 points to go along with 5 rebounds in only 22 minutes of action. After spending last season behind All-American Colton Iverson, Santo has stepped in the starting center role and provided big minutes, but none bigger than tonight.
“Coach Barnes has been working with me and Marcus a lot, teaching us how to really play hard in the post,” Santo said. “It was great to have a guy like Colton last year, I learned a lot from him and I’m still working to put everything I’ve learned together.”
Along with Santo’s career night came impressive performances from forward Joe De Ciman and freshman guard David Cohn who combined for 25 points on 8 of 11 shooting from the field, as well as hitting 5 of 6 behind the arc. But maybe the most impressive stat of the night came on the glass where CSU outrebounded the Panthers 46-23 including a 19-4 advantage on the offensive boards.
“Coach Eustachy emphasizes that all the time, to really take what we do in practice and get it into the games,” guard Jon Octeus said. “JJ had 11 rebounds, Marcus (Holt) had 7, and Joe had 4, so I think everyone really worked together on focusing on our rebounding tonight.”
Despite their youth, this Rams team has done an impressive job taking care of the ball early this year, something not usually associated with a team returning only four players from a season ago. CSU currently leads the country with the fewest turnovers per game at 7.6 as well as ranking in the top-20 in assist-to-turnover ratio at 1.61. With the lack of experience on this team, head coach Larry Eustachy has been pleasantly surprised with how quickly his team has come together only six games into the season.
“It’s very impressive. When I look at a team, I really look at that assist-to turnover ratio because that’s a great indicator of what type of talent you have on a team,” Eustachy said. “Even when we’ve lost, we’ve still had a decent ratio. Prairie View is a good team, but they aren’t the caliber of the teams we’ll be playing so it will be interesting to see what happens as we move up the food chain.”
CSU continues its record-long ten game home stand Wednesday afternoon when they take on Bethune-Cookman at 2 pm.
Basketball reporter Keegan Pope can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @kpopecollegian.