LARAMIE, Wyo. — First place and redemption.
With Colorado State’s 78-73 victory over Wyoming in the 226th edition of the Border War and a Boise State loss to New Mexico Tuesday night, the Rams have taken sole possession of first place in the Mountain West. The CSU win is the first in the last five Border War meetings between the rivals.
“It’s a great feeling, especially when you come up to Laramie and beat Wyoming,” CSU sophomore guard Prentiss Nixon said.
Colorado State led 41-33 at halftime and held a lead as big as 10 in the second half. But, as expected in a rivalry game, Wyoming made a comeback bid.
“I thought our team had several chances to crack but they stayed together as five,” CSU head coach Larry Eustachy said. “That’s what won it. Even when somebody was struggling the other four picked him up”
The Rams held a one point advantage with 60 seconds remaining in the game, until Prentiss Nixon took over. The guard hit a three-pointer with 34 seconds left to give CSU a four point lead. Nixon proceeded to score the Rams’ next four points from the free throw line en route to the win.
“I just take it when it comes,” Nixon said. “Gian (Clavell) drove and found me and I knocked it down. And free throws are my thing.”
Uncharacteristically, the Rams got into significant foul trouble and failed to take advantage of their free-throw attempts for the majority of the game.
In terms of fouls, Nico Carvacho and Nixon each had four with over eight and a half minutes of play left. Gian Clavell, Anthony Bonner, and Braden Koelliker also finished with three fouls a piece.
Coming into the game, Colorado State held a team free-throw percentage of 74 percent, however the Rams went 21-34 (61.8 percent) on Tuesday night. CSU’s poor performance from the line allowed Wyoming to hang around.
The Rams went 7-of-15 from three-point range. The 46.7 percent mark from behind the arc is over 10 percent better than their season average of 35 percent.
Though the stats will not show it enough, CSU’s role players proved to be an irreplaceable part of the victory. Koelliker, Bonner and Carvacho had positive contributions in the victory.
The three players average a combined point total of 13.6 per game, but Tuesday night the trio scored 19 while also adding 14 rebounds, four more than they average together. Carvacho scored eight points and collected five rebounds, Bonner had five points and grabbed three rebounds off the bench and Koelliker also added six points and six rebounds in only 17 minutes of action off the bench.
Koelliker’s stat line may not stand out, however, the Snow College transfer played through an illness Tuesday night.
“He was really sick,” senior forward Emmanuel Omogbo said. “He wouldn’t have played if we had everybody but he fought through it, he played. He hit really big three-pointers early on and that’s really all we need.”
Omogbo gathered his 15th double-double of the season, scoring 19 points and adding 16 rebounds. the senior converted his first six shots of the game, finishing 8-for-11.
Gian Clavell had an uncharacteristic shooting night, going just 5-for-17, however did manage 20 points by converting on 9-of-12 free throws.
Colorado State has now won four straight games and eight of their last nine.
“Collectively it was probably our best win with all the things that went wrong before the game and throughout the game,” Eustachy said.
Colorado State will take its win streak to The Pit to play New Mexico next Tuesday. The game can be seen on CBS Sports Network at 8 p.m. MT.
Collegian sports reporter Eddie Herz can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Eddie_Herz