Video by Travis Green of CTV11 Sports
There were no head locks or punches this time as a level-headed Colorado State’s men’s basketball team recovered from a slow second half start to finish off in-state rival Air Force 66-53 Saturday afternoon at Moby Arena.
The Rams (23-5, 10-5 MW) completed the season sweep in a much cleaner game than the last meeting with the Falcons (12-14, 5-10 MW). Daniel Bejarano had the hot hand, leading the Rams with 20 points while also grabbing seven rebounds and dishing three assists. He went 5-for-6 from behind the arc.
“When he brings it, I think we are a different team,” CSU head coach Larry Eustachy said of his standout senior guard.
To open the game, two back door cuts gave Air Force an early 7-6 lead, and caused Eustachy to take a timeout. But it would be the last time the Falcons led in the game.
The Rams’ starting unit opened the game with a barrage of threes, connecting on six of their first eight 3-pointers. Bejarano’s third of the game put CSU up 22-13. He then made a layup moments later to push the lead to double digits with 11:41 in the first half.
“We always feel good in Moby,” Joe De Ciman said. “We’ve been fortunate to have our threes go in early.”
Then, it was J.J. Avila’s turn. The senior forward scored CSU’s next nine points. He finished with 18 points on 7-for-11 shooting, and grabbed seven rebounds. However, he left the game in the second half with 10:43 to play and would not return.
Eustachy said Avila had been experiencing spasms in his upper back. Avila said he could have kept playing if needed though.
“He was hurting out there,” Eustachy said. “He probably should have come out earlier.”
Avila and Bejarano combined for 28 points in the first half as the Rams went into the break up 39-26. CSU missed a chance to extend their lead though as they missed six of their last seven shots in the half.
Air Force came out energized in the second and started with a 6-0 run. The Rams were able to rely on seniors Bejarano, Avila and Stanton Kidd to answer with a 9-0 run of their own. Bejarano’s fifth 3-pointer of the game pushed CSU’s lead to 51-34 with 14:03 left to play.
The Falcons clawed their way back in behind back-to-back threes by Max Yon and then Marek Olesinski to cut the score to 53-44 with 6:36 remaining.
CSU recovered though, thanks in part to Gian Clavell. The junior guard got things going late in the game and scored six straight points for the Rams as they finished off their rivals.
De Ciman threw down a two-handed slam with 1:29 left to put CSU up 66-53 and seal the win. The junior guard finished with 12 points and also recorded three blocks. Kidd had three blocks as well, and the team finished with eight in total.
Photos by Abbie Parr
“We’ve got to win these games,” Bejarano said. “I’m not trying to give any team hope.”
In an unsurprising subplot, Air Force guard Matt Mooney was booed heavily by the crowd at Moby Arena whenever he touched the ball. Ram fans had not forgotten about his involvement in the scuffle that took place between the teams back on January 10th. Mooney scored one point and went 0-for-3 from the field.
CSU also debuted it’s new alternate gray jerseys, which got mixed reviews from the players. De Ciman said he liked the new look but that some of his teammates were not as fond.
“I thought we shot pretty well, so maybe we will wear them again,” Avila said.
The Rams are back at Moby on Wednesday for Senior Night. CSU hosts San Jose State at 7 p.m. The game can be seen on the MW Network.
Collegian Sports Reporter Emmett McCarthy can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @emccarthy22.