It wasn’t pretty. In fact at times, it was downright ugly.
But the No. 24 Colorado State men’s basketball team remained undefeated on the year with a gutty 58-57 win over New Mexico State Saturday night at the Pan-American Center in Las Cruces, New Mexico.
Without starting center Tiel Daniels and reserve guard Gian Clavell, who didn’t make the trip due to injuries, CSU (13-0) had to rely heavily on the senior duo of J.J. Avila and Stanton Kidd. With All-Mountain West guard Daniel Bejarano limited by foul trouble and struggling from the field, Avila (19 points and nine rebounds) and Kidd (13 points) picked up the slack, combining for 32 of the team’s 58 points.
The Rams weren’t the only ones short-handed though, as the Aggies were down two starters and two top reserves to injuries as well.
“It was pretty sloppy at first,” Avila said. “Neither of us had our full teams, it was our first time playing without Tiel and Gian and I don’t know how long they’ve playing without those guys. We were playing good defense, we couldn’t hit anything in the first half, but we were stopping them. That just goes to show that what we do works, defensively.”
The Rams sputtered to another slow start, hitting just 2 of 14 shots while falling behind 14-6 at the midway point of the first half. However, CSU closed the final 10 minutes of the first frame on a 16-6 run to take a 22-20 lead into the break.
The second frame featured more of the same back and forth pace, with neither team able to extend its lead to more than six. After five ties and seven lead changes over the final 20 minutes, it looked as though CSU would be able to escape with a win in regulation.
But New Mexico State guard Ian Baker had other ideas when he drained a 3-pointer with 2.3 seconds to play to tie the game at 51. A desperation 3-pointer from Bejarano hit the backboard and rimmed out as time expired in regulation.
The teams continued to trade blows in the overtime period, with the Aggies (5-9) leading for almost four and a half minutes before Avila converted a layup with 31 seconds to go. The Aggies then missed consecutive jumpers on the other end before freshman Pascal Siakam was fouled rebounding his own miss by CSU guard Fred Richardson III. Siakam, who came into the game shooting 82 percent from the free throw line, missed both attempts with a chance to tie or take the lead.
New Mexico State then inbounded the ball with 2.1 seconds to play, but DK Eldridge overthrew everyone as the ball sailed out of bounds at the other end of the court. CSU then inbounded and Richardson III ran out the clock to extend CSU’s school-record winning streak to 13 games.
Despite shooting just 35 percent from the field and making just 16 of 26 free throws, the Rams again found a way to pull out a close win. Saturday’s win gave the Rams their fifth win by two points or less this season, which more than doubles their total (2) from last season.
“I’m ecstatic,” Colorado State head coach Larry Eustachy said of the win. “But it’s behind us now. We’ll be home tonight, get to bed and have a day off before we start conference. But I never thought we’d be undefeated in non-conference, particularly because of games like this on the road.”
The Rams return home to face Boise State Wednesday night to open Mountain West play. The Broncos and Rams tip off at 7 p.m. at Moby Arena. The game will also be broadcast on ROOT Sports and ESPN 105.5 FM.
Collegian Sports Editor Keegan Pope can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @ByKeeganPope.