Border War win: Check.
First triple-double in Colorado State men’s basketball history: Not quite.
Behind 20 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists from junior guard Daniel Bejarano, the CSU men’s basketball team continued its recent dominance of rival Wyoming with an 82-67 dismantling of the Cowboys Saturday at Moby Arena. Buoyed by a raucous “Orange Out” crowd of 6,590, the Rams (15-13, 6-9 MW) stopped a three-game losing skid and won for the eighth time in the past nine meetings between the teams.
After losing star forward Larry Nance Jr. to a torn ACL in last Tuesday’s win over Fresno State, the Cowboys (17-10, 8-6 MW) responded admirably in the first half, leading for the majority of the first frame before going into halftime tied at 31.
But from there it was all Colorado State as the Rams led from start to finish in the second half, using multiple big runs to extend their advantage to as many as 18 with 9:45 to play. Leading that charge was Bejarano, as well as junior guard Jon Octeus and sophomore guard Joe De Ciman who combined for 35 of the Rams’ 51 second-half points.
“The message at halftime was just to come out and withstand whatever they hit us with and to punch back,” Octeus said. “I think we did a really good job of that. We had an 11-point lead and they called a timeout and coach told us this is where we have to grow and learn how play when we’re up.”
Along with Bejarano’s near record-setting night, the Rams again got solid contributions from freshman Carlton Hurst (10 points), De Ciman (12), Octeus (23), and forward J.J. Avila (11). But maybe the most impressive statistic of the afternoon came on the boards, where CSU dominated 37-21 including a 13-2 advantage on the offensive end.
“I thought they dominated us in every category, we really had no answer and just couldn’t figure out a way to stop them,” Wyoming head coach Larry Shyatt said after the game.
For a team struggling with confidence after three straight losses including consecutive home losses for the first time since February 2010, Eustachy and his staff simply told his players to just have fun and the results would take care of themselves.
“I think these guys have been so hard on themselves recently,” Eustachy said. “These are high-character guys who are very disappointed in themselves when they don’t do well so I told them before the game to ‘just go have fun.’ They absolutely deserved it and it was pretty neat to see them in the locker room (after the game). I know how hard they’ve worked and it was neat to see them finally get the reward of winning.”
As the Rams head into their final three games of the regular season beginning with a road game Wednesday at UNLV, players and coaches alike still believe this group has what it takes to make a run late in the season and into the Mountain West Conference tournament in three weeks. As Bejarano pointed out, that run had to start now.
“This is a game that we really wanted, from the coaching staff all the way down to every player,” Bejarano said. “But there’s a lot more games to be played and I believe we can make a run in the conference tournament and get back to the NCAA Tournament.”
Next Up: The Rams return to action when they travel to the Thomas and Mack Center on Wednesday to take on third-place UNLV (17-9, 8-5 MW). The Rebels will be looking for revenge after being blown out by the Rams 75-57 at Moby less than three weeks ago. Wednesday’s game tips off at 9 p.m. and will be broadcast nationally on the CBS Sports Network.
Collegian Reporter Keegan Pope can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @KpopeCollegian.
Three Stars: Daniel Bejarano- 20 points, 12 rebounds, 9 assists
Two Stars: Jon Octeus- 23 points, 4 rebounds
One Star: Joe De Ciman- 12 points, 4-4 3PT