CSU men’s basketball holds off UNLV in 83-82 comeback win

Video Highlights by Travis Green of CTV11.

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It came down to the final shot Saturday afternoon as the CSU men’s basketball team erased an 18-point, first-half deficit en route to a 83-82 win over UNLV.

Jordan Cornish’s 3-pointer at the buzzer caught back-iron and bounced off as the Rams (20-4, 7-4 MW) held off the Runnin’ Rebels (13-10, 4-6 MW). CSU’s seniors Stanton Kidd, J.J. Avila and Daniel Bejarano led the way, combining for 52 of the Rams’ points.

John Gillon goes in for a layup during CSU's 83-83 win against UNLV. (Photo by Abbie Parr)
John Gillon goes in for a layup during CSU’s 83-83 win against UNLV. (Photo by Abbie Parr)

“We can’t let our fans down,” Bejarano said. “We knew we had to play better and that’s exactly what we did.”

The Rams finished strong despite a horrendous start. UNLV had no trouble getting to the basket and scoring early in transition. The Rebels went on a 14-0 run to go up 20-7 with 13:47 in the first half. CSU turned the ball over five times in the first four minutes.

For a moment, it looked like the Rams had no answer for UNLV’s length and athleticism, but they were able to make the necessary defensive adjustments.

“Our fours and fives (forwards) weren’t getting back quick enough so the guards couldn’t get out to the shooters,” Avila said. “That was on us. We just had to get back and help them out.”

The Rebels offense began to stagnate and CSU rallied back to close the gap. The Rams finished the opening frame on a 19-3 run capped by a 3-pointer from Kidd at the buzzer to go into the break down just 41-39. The Rebels went scoreless over the last 3:53 of the half.

“Daniel (Bejarano) drove and penetrated. He could have taken a shot of his own but he found me and the rest is history,” Kidd said. “But defense caused that momentum swing.”

Kidd led the team with 19 points (3-for-4 on 3-pointers) and also grabbed 6 rebounds.

The second half saw CSU pick up where they left off with a 12-3 run to open things up. Rashad Vaughn did enough for the Rebels to hang around, though. The freshman led all scorers with 30 points. His 3-pointer with 7:27 left in the game reclaimed the lead for UNLV.

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Back-to-back 3-pointers by Bejarano tied things back up and then gave the Rams an 80-77 lead with 1:57 remaining. Gian Clavell was fouled while shooting a 3-pointer and drained the free throws to put CSU up 83-79.

After UNLV’s Patrick McCaw hit a 3-pointer to cut CSU’s lead to 83-82, the Rebels had a chance to win with 9.8 seconds left. Cody Doolin found an open Cornish whose shot was just a little too strong, and Moby Arena erupted as the Rams secured the comeback win.

“That’s one of the better games I’ve been in in a long time,” CSU head coach Larry Eustachy said.

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Photos by Abbie Parr

Avila posted his sixth double-double of the season with 15 points and 11 rebounds while also dishing out seven assists. Bejarano finished with 18 points and nine rebounds.

The Rams also got significant contributions from reserves. Clavell scored 10 points and in addition to his late free throws also pulled down 6 rebounds and dished 4 assists. John Gillon finished with 9 points and 6 assists.

CSU faces New Mexico next in another home game Tuesday at 9 p.m. The game will be aired on ESPNU.

Collegian Sports Reporter Emmett McCarthy can be reached by email at sports@collegian.com and on Twitter @emccarthy22.