Highlights provided by CTV sports’ Olivia Landis and Karlee Schwartzkopf
In front of a modest Moby Arena crowd, the Colorado State men’s basketball team opened the 2016-17 season with a scrappy 64-61 victory over New Mexico State Sunday afternoon.
“I do not think we have ever played a team that good early (in the schedule),” head coach Larry Eustachy said following the win. “We always try to play a team that we know we can make mistakes against and still win. You would have to look at it but I cannot remember playing a team that is legit Mountain West… and have such a great come from behind win. I was proud of our players, all of them.”
Playing without senior guard Gian Clavell, who is suspended indefinitely, the Rams offense struggled to get anything going early, shooting just 25.9 percent from the field in the first half. As the game progressed, the team began to create more of a rhythm offensively and the Rams produced at a much higher level in the second half, shooting 40 percent from the field and erasing a three-point halftime deficit.
One glaring issue for the Ram offense was three-point shooting, as the team struggled to make anything from being the arc. CSU made only one of their 14 three-point attempts on the day (7 percent), but credit the Rams for adjusting and taking only three three-point attempts in the second half.
“We are an inside-outside team; we are not an outside team,” Eustachy said. The Rams coach went on to explain how the team was not playing to their strengths in the first half, and that he wanted the team to attack the rim more, which is exactly what the team came out and accomplished.
“Almost half your shots were were from the three,” Eustachy said. “That is not our game guys. Let’s get inside and let’s get fouled. We were in the double-bonus and did not take advantage of it in the first half. I thought we did in the second half.”
CSU made 25-31 free throw attempts, including 11-14 in the second half alone. Transfer forward Braden Koelliker thrived from the charity stripe, knocking down 13-15 free throw attempts on his way to leading the team in total scoring with 21 points.
What the Rams lacked offensively, they made up for with solid team defense and effort under the glass, especially in the second half. CSU was able to keep the Aggies out of the paint and limit easy scoring opportunities under the rim and NMSU was never able to adjust and start hitting the outside jump shots. Most importantly, the Rams were able to take advantage with those missed jump shots, out-rebounding the Aggies by 12.
“I give the whole team credit,” Eustachy said. “This is the type of team that I have always loved. Hard, physical, cannot shoot the ball well and still win.”
The men’s basketball team will take the court again Wednesday Nov. 16, for an in-state matchup with Fort Lewis University.
Collegian sports reporter Justin Michael can be reached by email at email@example.com or Twitter @JustinTMichael.