In a game that featured more fouls than field goals made, the Colorado State men’s basketball team knocked off Wyoming 78-73 in the first installment of the Border War Saturday afternoon in Laramie.
The two teams totaled 56 fouls in 40 minutes of action as four players fouled out of the contest. After a relatively calm first half, the whistle made its presence felt in the second stanza as the Border War quickly turned into a battle at the free throw line. The road victory for CSU (10-9, 3-3 Mountain West) is their third such of conference play.
Building off momentum from a road win against Utah State, CSU came out of the gates playing some of its best basketball of the season. Coach Larry Eustachy’s mantra was on full display early as the Rams’ smothering defense and physicality on the boards allowed them to mount a 15-point lead through the first 15 minutes of play.
Wyoming (11-7, 2-3 MW) failed to convert a field goal for a 13-minute stretch while the Rams consistently attacked the basket to develop the lead. With four minutes remaining in the half, Wyoming forward Alan Herndon made a 3-pointer to end the stretch and spark a Wyoming run. In a matter of minutes, CSU went from playing some of its best basketball of the year to some of its worst.
The Rams’ offense stalled as they stopped attacking the basket and instead relied on isolation ball. Wyoming finished the half on a 16-2 run and trailed by only one at halftime. CSU guard and leading scorer Prentiss Nixon did not score in the opening 20 minutes and found himself on the bench in foul trouble for the majority of Wyoming’s run.
While the first half was a game of runs, the second was all about the whistle. Both teams reached the bonus less than five minutes into the half as the the referees cracked down on borderline calls that went unpunished in the first half. Wyoming leading scorer Justin James picked up his fourth foul just two minutes into the half and missed the next 12 minutes of action.
The Rams did not trail throughout the half but failed to pull away as both teams found their way to the charity stripe on seemingly every possession. Two possessions after Wyoming trimmed the lead to one possession, J.D. Paige silenced Arena-Auditorium with a 3-pointer to give CSU a six-point lead. Che Bob and Nixon finished the Pokes with free throws late.
Bob paced CSU with 17 points, followed closely by Nixon who scored all 16 of his points in the second half. Paige also reached double digits for the 10th time this season, posting 14 points in the victory. Nico Carvacho finished two points shy of a double-double after hauling in 13 rebounds, his third consecutive game with double-digit boards.
All in all, seven different Rams finished with four-plus fouls as Carvacho, Deion James and Anthony Bonner fouled out. Wyoming’s Cody Kelley fouled out and three other Cowboys finished with four fouls. CSU made 75.9 percent of its free throws (22-of-29) and Wyoming connected on 73.8 percent of its opportunities (31-of-42).
CSU’s next tilt will come on Wednesday at 7 p.m. when they host the Air Force Falcons. The Rams have yet to earn a conference victory at home this season, losing to San Diego State and Fresno State.
Collegian sports editor Colin Barnard can be reached by email at email@example.com or on Twitter @ColinBarnard_.