The new-look Colorado State men’s basketball team put on a show with a dominant 83-66 win over the Montana Grizzlies to start the regular season on Saturday night at Moby Arena.
Stanton Kidd made his presence known in his official CSU debut, leading the team with 19 points on an efficient 6-of-8 shooting performance while going 3-for-4 from from three-point range. Sixteen of those points came in the first half, including a thunderous baseline dunk over Grizzlies defenders to excite the crowd.
“I just tried to let the game come to me,” Kidd said. “Before the game started, Daniel [Bejarano] told me to be ready. He was going to penetrate and find me, and that’s how I got a couple of those open shots. I just thank my teammates; it was nothing that I did.”
The Rams were in command from the get-go. Bejarano drained a three-pointer to kick things off, which sparked a 12-3 run to start the game. Gian Clavell chipped in a quick five points to push the score to 19-4. Clavell finished with 13 points and five rebounds off the bench.
Bejarano started the game for the Rams along with Joe De Ciman, Stanton Kidd, JJ Avila and Dantiel Daniels, but head coach Larry Eustachy experimented with a variety of different lineups and brought five players off the bench.
“It’s really kind of a battle for that eighth and ninth spot,” Eustachy said. “I don’t know who it’s going to be, and that should make for some competitive practices.”
The Rams showcased their improved three-point shooting as well. Last season, the team shot 32.6 percent from deep and took only about 16 attempts per game. Against Montana, the Rams made nine of 14 from behind the arc in the first frame alone to help them carry a 51-30 lead into the half.
“We’re going to try to get it in and out,” Bejarano said. “We would like to take a few lay-ups before we take threes but if the shot’s there, obviously let’s take it.”
Montana did not make things easy in the paint for CSU, and the team refused to go away all night. Jordan Gregory led the visitors with 17 points, and Michael Weisner added 16.
The Grizzlies began chipping away at the lead in the second half and cut the deficit to 16 at one point. CSU head coach Larry Eustachy was able to trust a lineup of Joe De Ciman, John Gillon, Carlton Hurst, JJ Avila and Kidd to keep things in control. A big dunk from Hurst pushed the Rams lead to 20 before a pair of free throws followed by a three-pointer put the Rams up 68-43.
“I told these guys to be ready, and they were,” Bejarano said. “It makes it easier on all of us. You guys knew that we had better talent coming in and this was not a surprise.”
The story of the night was the Rams’ improved offense and scoring depth with their bench chipping in 33 points. The returning stars also found their spots though, as Avila finished with 10 points and seven rebounds while Bejarano did a little bit of everything with 15 points, nine rebounds and five assists.
“I think it was a good start,” Eustachy said. “We had really good moments, and what’s great is we have got some older guys who understand that we had some really poor parts too.”
“I told these guys in the huddle that if we share the ball, we can beat any team in the country, and I mean that,” Bejarano added. “We have talent, we have the 3-4-5 (positions) going to get it, we are really physical, but if we just share the ball we are hard to beat.”
The Rams will be back in action when they host Georgia State at 7 p.m. Friday at Moby Arena.
Collegian Sports Reporter Emmett McCarthy can be reached by email at email@example.com and on Twitter @emccarthy22.