Propelled by the two-headed monster of JJ Avila and Daniel Bejarano, the Colorado State men’s basketball team used a late rally to beat rival Air Force 74-68 Saturday at Moby Arena. It was another big night for Bejarano, who set a career-high with 27 points to go along with 9 rebounds and two assists. Not to be outdone, Avila contributed a workmanlike 21 points on 7-14 shooting from the field as well as shooting 7-10 from the free-throw line.
In a first half where neither squad was particularly impressive on offense, the Rams (12-7, 3-3 MW) rode the duo’s combined 22 points to a 34-28 halftime lead. While they never led during the half, Air Force refused to go away hitting timely shots led by Colorado Springs native Kamryn Williams who carried the Falcons with 11 points on 5 of 7 shooting.
However, after his first-half performance, Williams struggled mightily in the second half shooting only 1 of 5 and picking up three personal fouls. But junior guard Max Yon found a groove in the second frame, coming up with opportune buckets en route to 18 points after scoring just five in the first half.
The Falcons (9-9, 3-3 MW) took their first lead of the game at the 7:38 mark on a lay-up by Yon that put them up 55-54. CSU didn’t regain the lead for good until a step-back three pointer from Bejarano late in the shot clock put them up 65-64 with 2:04 to play. From there, the Rams used a couple of clutch late free throws by freshman David Cohn to seal up their third conference win of the year.
During his postgame press conference, Head Coach Larry Eustachy praised the performances of Bejarano and Avila who have become the Rams “go-to” players as of late.
“Those two guys are priceless,” Eustachy said. “I told those guys that great players carry their teams and find a way to win this game and they did.”
After combining for 41 of the team’s 50 points in a loss to Utah State on Wednesday, the dynamic duo again took over the game but made sure they found a way to pull this one out after letting one slip away against the Aggies.
“Both of us just had to step up,” Bejarano said. “It obviously wasn’t enough to get us the win at Utah State so just needed to do more and that’s exactly what we both did. But give credit to our whole team, they had faith in the both of us and it helped us to get the win.”
Up next for the Rams is a date next Saturday against perennial powerhouse New Mexico. CSU is just two weeks removed from a 80-73 road loss to the Lobos on January 4th in which Avila struggled mightily due to a sprained lower back. Saturday’s game tips off at 2 pm at Moby Arena and will be broadcast on ESPN3.com as well ESPN 105.5 FM.
Behanan visits: As reported earlier, former Lousisville forward Chane Behanan was in attendance for Saturday’s game. The junior who originally hails from the state of Kentucky was dismissed from the team earlier this year after multiple violations of team rules. Behanan is considering CSU, along with New Mexico State and Florida State as possible transfer options, according to Matt Stephens of the Fort Collins Coloradoan.
Rated as a five-star prospect out of high school, Behanan chose the Cardinals over offers from powerhouses Kentucky, UConn, North Carolina, and Ohio State. In less than three seasons at Louisville, Behanan averaged 8.9 points and 6.7 rebounds in 23.5 minutes per game. Due to NCAA transfer rules, Behanan will have to sit out the 2014-15 season before being able to complete his eligibility in 2015-16.
After meeting with athletic director Jack Graham, Behanan watched the game from behind CSU’s bench with volleyball player Deedra Foss. At this point, Behanan has not made a decision but expects to within the next week after discussing his options with family and friends. He is currently living in Houston while spending time with former NBA coach John Lucas who heads a drug and alcohol recovery program for athletes. Stay tuned to the Collegian next week for coverage of Behanan’s decision.
Men’s basketball beat reporter Keegan Pope can be reached at email@example.com or in Twitter @kpopecollegian.