Over the last couple of seasons it has been must-see basketball when the Boise State Broncos and Colorado State Rams get together and that was certainly the case Tuesday night.
Colorado State fell 79-76 in a back-and-forth contest at Moby Arena, giving Boise State (14-7, 7-3 Mountain West) sole possession of second-place in the conference, and moving the Rams (14-9, 6-4 MW) into a tie with New Mexico for third.
It was the seventh consecutive contest settled by seven points or fewer between the two schools.
“I think there is a lot of respect between both programs,” head coach Larry Eustachy said. “Steve Fisher doesn’t come on anybody’s bus. I have a lot of respect for Leon (Rice). Leon has a lot of respect (for CSU). Somebody told me he ate a book of matches before last game there and said that is how tough you are going to have to be to beat Colorado State.”
With CSU down 19 with just over five minutes left in the first half, Anthony Bonner drove to the rim, made a layup and drew a foul with a chance for a three-point play. Bonner missed the free throw, but Braden Koelliker was able to get an offensive rebound and kick the ball out to Gian Clavell, who promptly made a three and was fouled on the shot. After Clavell’s made free throw, the Rams had come away with a six-point possession.
Over the next five minutes, CSU would go on a 23-7 run, cutting the Broncos lead to just three (43-40) by half.
The second half was a much tighter contest, with each team shooting over 35 percent from the floor and scoring 36 points apiece. Despite a plethora of Colorado State runs, the Rams were never able to get over the final hurdle and take the lead.
“I thought this game was lost at the beginning,” Eustachy said. “Give Boise State all the credit in the world…we dug to big of a hole. This was a real test for us. I think we have learned by now that people are going to try their hardest against Colorado State, whether you have seven guys or 17 guys.”
In a game that featured multiple scoring runs and droughts from both teams, neither was willing to give an inch and despite trailing for all but 30 seconds, the Rams had every every opportunity to come away with a win.
“We just got away from what we know, which is playing defense really hard,” sophomore guard J.D. Paige said following the game. “It was hard fighting back but we just got away from who we are.”
The Broncos finished the game 9-of-20 from behind the arc and 47 percent from the field. Point guard Paris Austin led all scorers with 25 points.
Colorado State will be on the road in Las Vegas next time they take the court on Feb. 4 at 4 p.m. as they take on UNLV (10-12, 3-6 MW). The game can be seen on CBS Sports Network.
Collegian sports reporter Justin Michael can be reached by email at email@example.com or Twitter @JustinTMichael.