Bench players make CSU basketball bigger threat in Mountain West tournament

grabowskiMugEverything seemed lost.

CSU trailed Fresno State 26-29 at halftime of the first round of the Mountain West tournament.

Starting point guard Dorian Green sat on the bench in street clothes.

Leading scorer Colton Iverson only scored one point in the first half and had as many fouls as rebounds.

Steadying force Wes Eikmeier missed all five of his first half field goals.

Enter an unlikely trio of transfers: Jon Octeus, Daniel Bejarano and Gerson Santo.

They combined for 27 points and eight rebounds in 73 total minutes in relief of Greg Smith and Iverson, both of whom struggled with foul trouble in the game.

Octeus started for the first time since his days at Wabash Valley College in Illinois after playing the seventh man role and backup point guard this year for CSU.

He initiated the Rams’ offense for the entire game, playing 40 minutes with three assists and , most importantly, zero turnovers.

It looks like Green will also miss Friday’s semifinal against UNLV, so CSU will once again rely on Octeus to run the show.

If he continues to make good decisions with the ball then the Rams will have one less problem against UNLV.

Santo and Bejarano saw limited playing time in the first half, but made their mark in the second frame. Santo made his usual one or two minute cameo to relieve Iverson. Bejarano came of the bench in typical conference sixth man of the year fashion, but Eustachy wasn’t satisfied with his play and yanked him.

“He challenged me by putting me back in,” Bejarano said.

And Bejarano answered by hitting two titanic three-pointers at 9:58 and 9:17 remaining in the game.

They put CSU up by seven points and for the first time allowed CSU fans to collectively exhale after holding their breath for the previous 30 minutes of a game that bit more nails than expected.

Santo, who averaged all of seven minutes per game in the regular season, scored 10 points and grabbed two rebounds in relief of Iverson.

CSU’s play inside didn’t drop off during Santo’s stretches, a testament to the game he played considering Iverson’s All-Mountain West conference first team billing.

The Rams have lacked depth all season long, playing largely a seven man rotation between the five senior starters, Bejarano and Octeus.

The loss of Green makes their bench even shorter, but if CSU can prove that every single Ram that enters the game is capable of changing it then it’ll be even more of a threat in the Mountain West Tournament and the NCAA tournament beyond.

Sports Editor Kyle Grabowski can be reached at sports@collegian.com.