Michael: Clavell and Omogbo are Mountain West’s best duo

Justin Michael

Saturday’s victory over San Diego State helped keep Colorado State’s chances of winning a regular season Mountain West championship alive, but it was also a statement to the rest of the league that Gian Clavell and Emmanuel Omogbo are the best one-two punch in the conference.

The duo combined for 61 points and 17 rebounds en route to erasing a 13 point second half deficit while overcoming all five SDSU starters finishing with double digit scoring totals and ultimately leading the Rams to their first road victory over the Aztecs since 2003.

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What Gian Clavell did on the court Saturday night was something I have never seen before. The veteran guard scored a career-best 37 points including the team’s final 12 points and an absurdly difficult layup to win the game.

More impressive than dropping nearly 40 points on the road and closing the game 7-of-8 from the field was the majority of Clavell’s attempts were well defended, but it did not seem to phase him in the slightest.

Time after time, Clavell was able to split the defense and create scoring opportunities both inside and out of the perimeter. Whether it was a three-pointer from four feet behind the arc, a fadeaway jumper in the corner or a layup with the defender draped all over him, Clavell simply could not miss.

Clavell’s performance will undoubtedly go down as one of the greatest in program history, but his counterpart was no slouch either.

Emmanuel Omogbo has consistently been the force that drives this team all season and he came up big time in Saturday’s victory. The Rams’ big man currently leads the Mountain West in the double-double’s (11) and has owned the post against the majority of CSU’s opponents. Saturday night was do different, as Omogbo recorded a career-best 24 points while adding nine rebounds and three assists.

Along with being his usual dominant self in the paint, Omogbo proved you cannot leave the big man alone behind the arc. Omogbo was a career-best 4-of-4 from three-point range and was able to take advantage of some second half defensive lapses from Steve Fisher’s squad.

“I thought it was a game for the memory books,” Larry Eustachy said after the win. “If you watched it on TV or you were here live or you were able to have the luxury of coaching in the game, I think everything played out perfect. Gian Clavell had four fouls. We took him out and sat him for about four seconds and then put him back in. When you’ve got somebody like him and Emmanuel (Omogbo), you feel like you’ve got a chance.”

With the conference being wide open for the taking, having an experienced duo like Clavell and Omogbo that can contribute in multiple ways on both ends of the floor may be what separates this team from the rest of the pack.

There is certainly quite a bit of talent in the MW conference with multiple teams possessing strong duos such as New Mexico’s Elijah Brown and Tim Williams, or Nevada’s Cameron Oliver and Marcus Marshall, but none of them are as versatile as the one-two punch of Clavell and Omogbo.

Clavell has deadly range, and his ability to create space and score anywhere on the floor makes him to tough to contest. Omogbo is a physical mismatch and a weapon on the boards, but an improved offensive touch has elevated his game to a new level this year.

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Most importantly, Clavell and Omogbo have each shown a willingness to distribute the ball to the open man and play off of each other’s strengths, instead of looking to put up individual numbers on a nightly basis.

When this group is playing unselfish basketball, and can put the ball in the hands of their big men in the post and their playmakers in the perimeter, they are extremely tough to beat and it has shown of late. The Rams are 6-3 in their last nine games and have won three straight, despite playing with only seven scholarship players.

If this team continues to play to their strengths and rely on the best one-two punch in the Mountain West (Clavell and Omogbo), this team is capable of making a legitimate run at the postseason and surprising a lot of people.

Collegian sports reporter Justin Michael can be reached by email at sports@collegian.com or Twitter @JustinTMichael