After defeating New Mexico 68-56 in Albuquerque Wednesday, the Colorado State men’s basketball team is closing in on what would be the first Mountain West championship in program history.
Being led by two of the front-runners for Mountain West Player of the Year in Gian Clavell and Emmanuel Omogbo, the Rams (19-9, 11-4 MW) are winners of five straight conference road games — something the program has not done since 1989-90 — and control their own fate with three games to go, two of which are at home.
Resemblant to the rest of their campaign through the Mountain West, in their victory over the Lobos, the Rams were carried by the veteran duo of Clavell and Omogbo. Clavell led all scorers with 24 points, while Omogbo notched his league-leading 16th double-double of the season, scoring 17 points and bringing down a game-best 14 rebounds.
“This team continues to accomplish things that many thought they couldn’t and it starts and finishes with our two seniors (Clavell and Omogbo),” head coach Larry Eustachy said after the victory over New Mexico. “They are providing great efforts and great leadership and everyone is just doing whatever they need for us to win.”
Although the team has often admitted that winning the conference tournament is the ultimate goal and that winning a regular season title would be icing on the cake; winning the league title would be beneficial for multiple reasons.
Along with improving CSU’s chances of winning the conference tournament by getting a bye in the first round, winning the league would mean that at the very minimum CSU would have a spot in the postseason NIT. Winning the regular season title would also drastically improve the chances of Clavell or Omogbo taking home Mountain West Player of the Year honors.
Since the conference’s inception, only three times has the conference player of the year not played for the regular season champion or co-champion, most recently in 2016 with Fresno State’s Marvelle Harris.
History would say that Clavell has a better chance to take home the award due to his scoring totals, but both players have played their way into the conversation and either would be deserving of the conference’s top honor.
Clavell has scored in double-figures in 18 of his 19 appearances this season and has scored 20 or more points nine times. In those nine games, the Rams have posted a 7-2 record, including a 5-0 record through the month of February.
At 20.9 points per-game in Mountain West play, Clavell is tied with New Mexico guard Elijah Brown for the league-lead in scoring. Of the conference’s top four scorers, which includes Chandler Hutchison, Elijah Brown and Marcus Marshall, Clavell has the second highest field goal percentage (44 percent), trailing only Hutchison (47.7 percent).
Not letting his teammate outshine him, Omogbo’s 11 double-double’s in conference play are one shy of the record for most in a single season and the forward has led the conference in rebounding since day one.
Although not the offensive threat that Clavell or some of the other candidates are, Omogbo makes a strong case due to his versatility and consistency. The big man is averaging 16.6 points and 11.2 rebounds per-game, while shooting 49.2 percent from the floor and 50 percent from behind the arc.
Omogbo and Clavell will look to improve their resume for the conference’s top honor when CSU hosts San Diego State this Saturday. The last time these two met, Clavell (37) and Omogbo (24) combined for 61 points and 17 rebounds in CSU’s first victory at Viejas Arena (78-77) since 2003.
Collegian sports reporter Justin Michael can be reached by email at email@example.com or Twitter @JustinTMichael.