Colorado State is far from a polished product.
Five days after snapping Northern Iowa’s 18-game home winning streak with timely shooting,t he Rams slogged their way to an 83-75 win over Loyola Marymount in front of 3,142 fans at Moby Arena Thursday night.
CSU was plagued by a slow start from the field, hitting just two of their nine seven shots, and falling behind early to the Mountain Lions, who were picked dead last in the West Coast Conference this season after winning just eight games last season in head coach Mike Dunlap’s first season.
The Rams (2-0) did get a spark off the bench however, from senior guard Antwan Scott, who chipped in 10 points, including two 3-pointers. After falling behind by as many as nine with five minutes to play in the first half, CSU cut the deficit to just one before Brandon Brown’s layup put the Lions up 37-34 at the halftime buzzer. CSU was able to hold LMU’s leading scorer Adom Jacko scoreless after he came into the game averaging 19.5 points per game, but couldn’t slow down Brown, who led all Lions scorers with 10 points.
“We were just able to keep him in a gap and not let him catch it,” senior guard Gian Clavell of the Rams’ ability to shut out Jacko. “We fronted him, and played the same principles that we always play.”
LMU outscored CSU 18-8 in the paint in the first frame, and turned five Rams turnovers into 10 points.
Out of the break, CSU fell behind by five quickly, but led by the foursome of Scott, Gian Clavell, Emmanuel Omogbo and Joe De Ciman, CSU used a 5-0 run tie the game with 14:41 to play. The Rams never trailed again, holding off a late Lions rally to win their 35th home opener in a row.
The win was the Rams’ 18th in a row in non-conference play, with their last loss coming at the hands of the University of Denver on Dec. 11, 2013. Still, head coach Larry Eustachy was not pleased with his team’s effort in the first 20 minutes.
“To play at this level, you have to play hard,” Eustachy said. “You do not as a coach say your team didn’t play very hard unless you have a six-year contract with every penny guaranteed. You’re just not supposed to say that, because if you do, you aren’t a very good coach, but our team didn’t play hard. 95 percent of coaching is getting your team to play hard, and we just didn’t in the first half. … We were just out-competed in the first half. But I thought we showed some character in winning the game.”
Jacko, who had scored 17 and 22 points in the Lions first two games, fouled out with 11:19 to play in the second half, after totaling just two points and no rebounds.
Despite shooting just 43 percent from the field, the Rams were buoyed by a solid night from the free-throw line, where they hit 31 of their 40 attempts.
“With the new rules this year, we’re shooting a lot of free throws in practice, knowing it’s going to show up when the games come,” Omogbo said.
Clavell led CSU with 21 points, five rebounds and six assists while Omogbo pitched in 19 points and seven rebounds, and De Ciman added 15 points and seven rebounds.
Brandon Brown led the Lions with 24 points. No other LMU player scored more than 11.
The Rams return to Moby Arena Sunday against Oakland. The game tips off at 2 p.m. and can be heard on ESPN 105.5 FM.
Collegian Senior Sports Reporter Keegan Pope can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @ByKeeganPope.