In the final tune-up before the conference season begins next weekend, the CSU men’s basketball team led from start to finish en route to an 86-71 win over Lamar Saturday at Moby Arena.
Behind career performances from JJ Avila (33 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists) and Daniel Bejarano (19 points, 18 rebounds, 7 assists) the Rams improved to 9-4 on the year, a place Bejarano isn’t quite satisfied with.
“There’s a few games we should’ve had, we should at least have 11 or 12 wins right now,” Bejarano said. “It’s just been little errors but it is what it is and we just have to get back to doing what we do best.”
CSU did just that, outrebounding the Cardinals 46-31, including a 16-8 advantage on the offensive boards. Again, the Rams did an impressive job taking care of the ball, turning it over only eight times while dishing out 20 assists on 35 made baskets.
Leading that charge was Bejarano who set a new career-highs in points, assists, and rebounds while falling three assists shy of the first triple-double in CSU basketball history. But for the junior guard from Phoenix, it was just another day at the office.
“Some of the guys on the bench were looking up at the scoreboard and telling me I was close,” Bejarano said. “It’s fun but at the same time I’m just trying to get the “W”, that’s the most important thing to me.”
Behind 16 first-half points from Avila, CSU took a 43-33 lead into halftime despite shooting only 5 of 12 from the free-throw line. The Cardinals (1-11) cut the deficit to nine with 18:08 to go in the second half, but never got closer than 10 as Avila carried the Rams with 17 second-half points and didn’t miss a field goal attempt until the 10:28 mark.
Along with Bejarano’s career night, Avila set a career-high with 33 points on 14-17 shooting. However, the junior forward praised the play of his teammates and their ability to find him in the right spots.
“I was just finding the open shots and they were getting me the ball,” Avila said. “We had 20 assists so I think that was a big part of it.”
As the Rams head into their Mountain West Conference opener Wednesday against No. 20 San Diego State, head coach Larry Eustachy took time to praise the efforts of his starting group but also to challenge his bench players to step up their production as the season heads toward the midway point.
“I was very pleased, but the issue with our team is the guys who don’t start right now,” Eustachy said. “Those guys need to come in and maintain a level of play close to the guys that are coming out. A lot of teams have that problem and we have young guys that just need to get better.”
CSU will see a big jump in talent and experience Wednesday when they take on an Aztecs team whose only loss came at the hands of now-top-ranked Arizona on November 14th. Wednesday’s game tips off at 7 pm and will be nationally broadcast on ESPNU.
Video by Keith Albertson, CTV11
Men’s basketball beat reporter Keegan Pope can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @kpopecollegian.