The Colorado State men’s basketball team defeated Alcorn State 80-58 at home Sunday afternoon behind a strong shooting performance from sophomore guard J.D. Paige, who scored a career-high 23 points.
Following the game, head coach Larry Eustachy raved about the sophomore guard and the maturity he has shown through the first five games.
Paige was everywhere for the Rams early on, scoring 19 points in the first half alone and providing a much-needed spark for the offense. Shooting 6-9 from the field, 50 percent from behind the arc and 8-8 from the free throw line, Paige put together one of the most complete games of his young career.
“My teammates were finding me and the shots just came,” Paige said, following the victory. “Our approach every game is to get your teammates shots. We move the ball, cut hard, everything opens up and the points come.”
Along with a strong performance from Paige, Emmanuel Omogbo put forward another dominant performance in the post, recording a double-double (15 points, 15 rebounds). The double-double was Omogbo’s third consecutive and his fourth of the season.
Despite putting together an impressive performance himself, the Colorado State big man raved about his teammates following the victory.
“We kept going to J.D. (Paige),” Omogbo said. “ He had a career night, so why not go to him? He has the hot hand, I am not trying to shoot.”
Defense has a been strength of this team in the early part of the season and that was a trend that continued Sunday, as the Rams held the Braves to just 29.3 percent shooting from the field (17-58). Despite forcing 16 turnovers, the Alcorn State offense was inept, forcing up shot after shot against the stout Ram defense.
“Coach always tells us that it is not going to happen on the offensive end, that is not how we are going to win games,” Omogbo said. “We are going to win games holding teams under 30 percent every night…Everybody is going to score, but we are not worried about the points. We are just worried about getting stops.”
Where the Rams truly outperformed the Braves was in the post, out-rebounding their opponent 47-25 and scoring 34 points in the paint, 18 more than the Braves. Despite dominating the Braves on paper, head coach Larry Eustachy is not complacent with the state of his team and believes that they are just scratching the surface of what they are truly capable of.
“The stats say that this is the best defensive and offensive game we have played, but we have played a lot better defense,” Eustachy said. “We played a lot better defense at Stanford. That was one better defensive efforts I have ever had a team play… Under the circumstances, I think it was a great team effort.”
Eustachy continued on the prospects of his young team, explaining how he expects this team to continue to come together and that guys will be much better in February or March than they are right now. Eustachy also likes the mindset of his young team and their “even keeled demeanor”, explaining that that he likes the way guys are saying the right things off the court and doing the right things on it.
“When players start talking the way I talk, then you really have something,” Eustachy said. “Some of the things said (by players) these days, are just crazy. When you have your players saying something “that sounds like Larry”, then you really have something and I think we are moving towards that.”
The Rams take the court again Wednesday for an in-state matchup with the University of Colorado, before hosting Wichita State Saturday Dec. 3 as part of the Mountain West- Missouri Valley Challenge.
Collegian sports reporter Justin Michael can be reached by email at email@example.com or on Twitter @JustinTMichael