Aztecs kick off 2017 with road victory over CSU

Justin Michael

Playing in its first game of the new year, Colorado State men’s basketball (8-8, 1-2 MW) was defeated 77-68 by San Diego State (10-4, 2-1 MW) in Moby Arena Tuesday night. The loss to the Aztecs snaps a three-game winning streak for the Rams and ties the overall series at 41-41.

“The tougher team won. They made the plays down the stretch,” head coach Larry Eustachy said. 

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In a game highlighted by dramatic runs for each squad and inconsistent shooting, freshman forward Jalen McDaniels had a career night for the Aztecs. The 6-foot-10 forward from Federal Way, Wash. entered Tuesday’s matchup averaging 6.8 points and 6.2 rebounds per game.

McDaniels nearly tripled that for the Aztecs, hitting 8-of-11 field goal attempts to finish with a team-leading 19 points. He also added ten rebounds to round out a solid offensive performance with a double-double.

While McDaniels carried the weight for SDSU, junior guard Prentiss Nixon, CSU’s leading scorer on the season, struggled mightily. The 6-foot-1 junior guard from Bolingbrook, Ill. made just 4-of-17 shots from the field and finished with 11 points and four rebounds.

With Nixon struggling, fellow guards Anthony Bonner and J.D. Paige helped pick up the slack for the Rams on the offensive end. Bonner was extremely efficient, making 5-of-9 field goal attempts to finish with 13 points. Paige made 9-of-18 attempts and finished with 22 points, which led all scorers in the game.

“As everybody knows, I’ve been in a slump recently. So I just wanted to come out here and be a little bit more aggressive,” Paige said of his performance. 

Forward Nico Carvacho played a big role for the Rams in the paint. The “Big Chile” scored just six points, but also added seven rebounds, three assists and one steal. Ultimately, Carvacho’s ability to impact the game was limited due to foul trouble though, and the big man fouled out with three minutes left in regulation.

“It hurts us a lot. We are not very big,” Paige explained. “He’s our biggest player out there and he does his job with grabbing rebounds, so when he goes out we need to make more of an emphasis to crash the glass and rebound.”

Carvacho had a nice night down low for Eustachy’s Rams, but the Aztecs generally dominated this game in the paint. SDSU out-rebounded CSU by 13 (45-32) and held a ten point advantage in total points in the paint (30-20).

“It was very frustrating, especially the rebounding (totals),” Bonner said.

The redshirt sophomore explained that the team had put in a solid few weeks of practice but it did not translate when the lights were brightest. The Rams were simply out-worked by a more physical team. 

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Following the loss to the Aztecs, the Rams will take the court again this Saturday when they host the Fresno State Bulldogs. In two games last season, the Rams and Bulldogs split the season series, each team coming away with a victory on their home floor.

Collegian sports director Justin Michael can be reached at jmichael@collegian.com or Twitter @JustinTMichael.