Injured Prentiss Nixon dominates second half, leads CSU over Utah State

Colin Barnard

Prentiss staring down
Prentiss Nixon (11) stares down a Colorado defender after nailing a deep three pointer over him in the 2nd half of the Rams’ 72-63 win. (Javon Harris | Collegian)

Playing with one-and-a-half knees, Prentiss Nixon led the Colorado State men’s basketball team to a 84-75 road victory over Utah State Wednesday night in Logan, Utah.

After a sluggish offensive performance against Fresno State last Saturday, the Rams (9-9, 2-3 Mountain West) came out looking like an entirely different ball club. Rather than settle for contested jump shots from the perimeter, CSU constantly found itself with open looks in the paint.

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Center Nico Carvacho was the main distributor for CSU, connecting on four assists in the opening stanza including a pair of beautiful backdoor passes. The Rams shot a robust 50 percent from the floor in the first half thanks in large part to their intuitive shot selection and ball movement.

Meanwhile, Utah State (10-8, 3-2 MW) continuously hoisted shots from deep without much success. They converted a measly 4-of-17 3-point attempts in the frame and turned the ball over six times.

CSU held its collective breath in the opening portion of the first half as leading scorer Prentiss Nixon went down clutching his right knee. After injuring his knee against San Diego State earlier this season, Nixon already sported a brace. Following an extended absence, though, Nixon returned to the floor with added armor on the knee and helped lead the Rams to a 13-4 run to close the first half with 10-point advantage.

The Rams began the second half with the same intensity, forcing two turnovers and scoring seven straight points in the first two minutes to open up a 17-point lead. Nixon proved to a be a difference maker yet again despite dealing with the injury. He drew his second charge of the night and forced a steal early in the period to lead CSU’s defensive prowess and silence an impressive crowd in Logan, Utah.

Following the quick start to the second half, CSU went cold from the field and allowed the Aggies to work their way back into the game. The Rams had their 18-point lead cut to 10 with five minutes remaining after making only 1-of-12 shots from the field.

Nixon erased any hopes of an Aggie comeback by drilling two contested 3-pointers and knocking down a pair of free throws with under four minutes to go. From that point, CSU’s defense halted Sam Merrill and the Aggies’ offense.

In one of the most diverse offensive performances of the season, five different Rams scored at least eight points, including Nico Carvacho (10), Che Bob (19) and Nixon (26). 22 of Nixon’s 26 points came in the second half to lead CSU to the road victory. Carvacho also led all players with 15 rebounds to notch a double-double.

CSU displayed efficient offense throughout the night, shooting 46 percent from the field, 44 percent from 3-point range and 79 percent from the charity stripe.

The defensive performance was just as impressive as the Rams forced 17 turnovers, which they converted into 22 points. Nixon led the defensive attack with four steals and two charges drawn.

The road win is the Rams’ second of the season. Up next is the first installment of the Border War in Laramie on Saturday, Jan. 13 at 2 p.m. The Cowboys are an impressive 8-1 at home this season.

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Collegian sports editor Colin Barnard can be reached by email at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @ColinBarnard_.