The Colorado State men’s basketball team had trouble getting started Friday night, but once they did, the Rams showed why they’ll be a team to contend with all season.
CSU overcame a rough start to come away with an 80-70 win over the Georgia State Panthers in front of 3,056 fans at Moby Arena.
The Rams were led by Daniel Bejarano and Stanton Kidd who both finished with 16 points. Three other players finished in double figures to help propel them past the play of Ryan Harrow and R.J. Hunter, who combined for 45 of GSU’s 70 points. CSU was behind by as many as 12 points and went into the half trailing by five points, but fought back to get the win.
“We knew they were talented,” Kidd said. “We’re talented also. We worked so hard this summer and this off-season trying to get ready for the year. I just think we out-toughed them in the second half. We out-determined those guys.”
CSU had trouble penetrating GSU’s zone early on and dug themselves into a hole with sloppy passing. The Rams racked up nine turnovers in the first half, including back-to-back giveaways which led to fast break buckets that put the Panthers up 28-16 and forced a CSU timeout.
“Coach just told us to settle down when we went into the locker room,” Kidd said. “We came out and tried to slow it down. They had that zone that was leaking out for the passes. We just tried to make sure we ball-faked before we made passes and just get to open spots, get more to the basket than getting long jump shots, and rebound.”
Despite the tough start, CSU was down just five points heading into halftime. J.J. Avila got things going quickly in the second frame with a put-back that sparked a 7-0 run to tie things up at 40-40.
After shooting just 31 percent from the field in the first half, the Rams came out and shot 53.3 percent in the second. That was mostly the result of getting Avila going and getting more shots around the rim after taking 13 three-pointers in the first half.
“It was a contrast of two halves,” Eustachy said. “Just three turnovers in the second half, offensive rebounds all over the place. That won the game when we went to the offensive boards and made some great plays.”
The Rams outrebounded the Panthers 22-16 in the second half, including seven offensive boards which helped swing momentum in CSU’s favor.
With his team down 62-60, GSU head coach Ron Hunter was flagged with a technical foul. Daniel Bejarano made both free throws to start a 14-0 CSU run that really put the game away.
CSU struggled all night to contain Ryan Harrow who finished with 26 points and five assists. Harrow tore through the Rams for the most part, until the defense of Carlton Hurst helped contain him late.
“Carlton wanted it,” Bejarano said. “Timeout after timeout, Carlton doesn’t really talk but he said ‘I want him’ so we said ‘go ahead’ and he did what he did.”
Hurst also converted an and-one during the Rams’ late run that was assisted by Avila. Avila was held scoreless in the first half but finished with 13 points, eight assists and six rebounds. That tied a career-high in assists for Avila, who Eustachy said was also one of the more vocal leaders at halftime in the locker room.
With five players scoring in double digits, the Rams showcased some depth, but more importantly they showcased their toughness and some of the experience left over in players like Avila and Bejarano. However, many of CSU’s new talents have never played in this type of environment. GSU provided them with the type of test this team needs before conference play begins.
“We have got to stay on an even keel and keep doing what we are doing,” Eustachy said. “We’ve worked hard to win that type of game. They are a good opponent. That game is going to be a huge win come March.
Collegian Sports Reporter Emmett McCarthy can be reached by email at email@example.com and on Twitter @emccarthy22.
Photos by Elliot Foust