CSU men’s basketball escapes Regis 70-69 in exhibition game [Slideshow]

IMG_1176The CSU men’s basketball team met their demise in last year’s NCAA tournament when eventual national champion Louisville ran circles around the Rams defense.

Saturday yielded a similar performance as the Rams defense once again had their weaknesses exposed. Except this time they weren’t being exposed by the No. 1 team in the country, but the Division II Regis University Rangers.

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The Rams managed to pull off a tight win 70-69, but many holes in their playing needed to be addressed.

“We just came out soft,” guard Daniel Bejarano said. “We didn’t come out ready and they just handed it to us.”

The Rangers came out on the court in Moby swinging. At halftime, they were shooting 62 percent from three-point range and had nearly half of their points coming from behind the arch. They were unstoppable when shooting from the perimeter and proved that the Rams were not adequately prepared to shut down such a solid offense.

“That team wouldn’t go away,” head coach Larry Eustachy said. “Every time we got it close they went on a spurt. I can’t believe we won the game; I really can’t. Had it not been (in Moby), we would not have won.”

In addition to their overall lack of defense, the Rams offense was never quite able to get into a rhythm. Players were missing passes from one another which led to a total of eight turnovers and 12 second chance points for Regis.

This lack of communication is something that naturally comes with a team that recently added six new players to the roster, but it is also something that needs to be confronted quickly.

“It was a big difference (from last year’s lineup),” Bejarano said. “You know there’s a lot of new guys; the scoring isn’t there.”

Despite the general disappointment in Saturday’s performance, there was a one major bright spot both on the defensive and offensive side in forward J.J. Avila, who transferred to CSU from the Naval Academy.

In his debut, Avila led the team in scoring with 25 points and also managed to put up 12 rebounds and five assists. He played the full 40 minutes of the game and put up the game-winning layup that put the Rams up 70-69 with 8.1 seconds left.

“I just try to go out there and do whatever they ask me. If shots fall, they fall,” Avila said.

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Even though this first game can be considered a success by the final score, the Rams still have many improvements to make before taking on the regular season. Eustachy has nothing but the best in mind for this year’s team.

“I’m optimistic,” Eustachy said. “We really needed help from the new guys and they’re certainly the reasons why we won. There’s no margin for error for this team, none. But I think we can beat some people before it’s over.”

Sports writer Hannah Cornish can be reached at sports@collegian.com and on Twitter at @hmcornish.