After defeating the College of Charleston, the Colorado State men’s basketball team hoped for the opportunity to play another home game in the National Invitation Tournament. When No. 8 California State-Bakersfield defeated No. 1 California University (73-66), that became possible.
Now that Houston and Brigham Young University, the next highest seeds, have each lost as well, No. 4 CSU is the highest seed remaining in the quadrant. The Rams have an opportunity to host through the quarterfinals before the tournament moves to Madison Square Garden in New York City for the semifinals and championship game.
The Rams are coming off an extremely efficient victory over Charleston in which CSU recorded its highest assist-turnover ratio of the season (3.0). With 18 assists in the game, the performance was the Rams’ second highest total in any individual game this year.
Senior guard Gian Clavell led all scorers in the game with 22 points and was close to recording the first triple-double in program history with nine rebounds, seven assists.
Sophomore guards Prentiss Nixon (19) and J.D. Paige (15) combined for 34 points and the team shot 45 percent from the floor.
Defensively, CSU forced 11 turnovers, resulting in 19 points for the Rams. This is a trend they will look to continue against the Road Runners of CSU-Bakersfield. Coming off a hot shooting performance against Berkeley on Tuesday in which CSU-Bakersfield had four players score in double digits, the Rams will look to throw some water on the torrid Road Runners.
CSU-Bakersfield shot well from beyond the arc, making 9-of-21 attempts (43 percent). However they struggled mightily to hit their foul shots, going 18-for-31 from the charity stripe.
The Road Runners distributed the ball well with 15 assists, but they did turn the ball over 12 times. Look for the Rams to try and pressure CSU-Bakersfield and create scoring opportunities in transition.
Although CSU does not have the depth on the roster to hack away at a poor free throw shooting team, they can find solace in knowing they can play aggressively and it likely will not hurt them if they put their opponent on the line.
With the top three seeds in the quadrant all losing, the Rams can control their own destiny in the NIT. In the opening round the Rams played like a team that wants to win it all.
“These guys are very hungry and they showed it,” head coach Larry Eustachy said of his team. “They beat a very good team that manhandled Boise this year. We couldn’t handle Boise… I just sat up in the gym…way up there and watched these guys come in the gym and it just reminded me when I was a high school player. My friends would come in on Saturday and you would finally have enough guys to play and Gian was goofing around with J.D. (Paige) and Nico (Carvacho) was in there…it’s just a close group of seven guys … It almost brought me down in some tears.”
The Rams and Road Runners will tipoff Monday night in Moby Arena at 9:15 p.m. The game will be televised on ESPN2.
Collegian sports reporter Justin Michael can be reached by email at email@example.com or Twitter @JustinTMichael.