As the final buzzer sounded, J.J. Avila raised his arms and smiled.
A year after giving away their last matchup with the Buffs, Colorado State (9-0) downed rival Colorado (5-3) 62-60 in front of a hostile Boulder crowd of 10,966. What started as a shooting clinic quickly turned into a dogfight, and it was the Rams who came out on top after dropping the previous two meetings with the Buffs.
“It’s awesome, man. It’s an awesome feeling,” Avila said. “We’re all in there hugging each other. Even though we’re 9-0, this is just the start of our season.” It looked like the Rams were ready to put things away when a big three by Joe De Ciman put them up 60-54 with under two minutes, but the Buffs fought back to close within two. CSU was able to seal the deal though, despite numerous missed free throws in the final minutes. Avila led the way with 19 points, including two tough layups in the final minutes. John Gillon also gave the Rams a huge spark off the bench with nine points while going 7-for-10 from the free throw line. “Even though they were getting rebounds, we were still getting stops and scoring the ball on the other end,” Gillon said. CU big man Josh Scott was held to just two points and failed to convert a single field goal. Xavier Johnson picked up the slack with 20 points and five rebounds while Askia Booker chipped in 18 points but it was not enough without any production from their star. “Our main focus was to limit Scott’s touches and we did a good job of it,” Avila said. The Buffs came out hot converting all four of their 3-point attempts in the first half but the Rams were able to hang around by forcing eight turnovers to go into the break down just 32-30. Back-to-back buckets by Tiel Daniels to open the second frame gave the Rams the lead and they never looked back. CU cooled off in the second half going just 35.7 percent from the field while CSU was able to make the tough shots they needed. “This was a great game,” Eustachy said. “We tried to find a lot of ways to lose it with free throws and stuff but I’m just proud of our guys.” Collegian Sports Reporter Emmett McCarthy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @emccarthy22.