FORT COLLINS, Colo. – In the opening round of the National Invitation Tournament, the No. 4 seed Colorado State held off a pesky No. 5 Charleston for an 81-74 victory at Moby Arena, March 14. In picking up the program’s 11th postseason win in history, the Rams improved their overall record to 24-11 on the year, while the Cougars ended their year at 25-10.
The teams exchanged baskets in the early part of the game, with the visitors holding a one-point lead at 30-29 with 5:29 left in the first half. From there, the Rams closed the half on a 13-3 run and entered the halftime break with a 42-33 advantage.
CSU started out the second half with effective offense and rebounding, pushing the lead to as many as 16 at 60-44 with 12:55 to play in the game. However, Charleston kept chipping away over the next seven minutes, getting the lead down to three at 72-69 with 5:21 remaining. The Rams made plays down stretch, including six straight points by senior guard Gian Clavell final two minutes, to seal the victory.
Colorado State shot 44.4 percent (28-of-63) from the field for the game, including 33.3 percent (10-of-30) from the three-point arc. Charleston connected on 42.4 percent (28-of-66) from the floor but just 29.7 percent (11-of-37) beyond the three-point line. The Rams were 15-of-21 from the free throw line and won the battle of the boards, 39-36. CSU also took advantage of 11 Charleston turnovers and scored 19 points.
Clavell scored 22 points and added nine rebounds, a career-high tying seven assists and four steals. Sophomore guard Prentiss Nixon scored 19 points, while redshirt-sophomore J.D. Paige chipped in 15 points, including 3-of-5 on three pointers. Senior forward Emmanuel Omogbo had 12 points and seven rebounds. Charleston had five players in double figures, led by Joe Chealey with 16 points while Cameron Johnson and Grant Riller added 15 each.
IN THEIR WORDS…
Colorado State head coach Larry Eustachy
(on the game overall)
“We knew we were playing a very good team. I asked this team if they wanted to continue to play and before I could get a play out they said…yes after a tough loss against Reno (Nevada). These guys are very hungry and they showed it. They beat a very good team that manhandled Boise this year. We couldn’t handle Boise. I just sat up in the gym…way up there and watched these guys come in the gym and it just reminded me when I was a high school player. My friends would come in on Saturday and you would finally have enough guys to play and Gian was goofing around with J.D. (Paige) and Nico (Carvacho) was in there…it’s just a close group of seven guys. They can legally take a cab together… all seven of them. It almost brought me down in some tears. They are really close and we beat real formidable opponent tonight so really proud of these guys.”
(on Gian’s performance)
“I thought we were at a carnival tonight…three for a quarter. The three shots from the corner. You get three softballs to knock down the three milk cans. He (Gian) kind of looked at me and smiled. He took three….three right? For a quarter. He started laughing at me.”
Senior guard Gian Clavell
(on his scoring run in second half)
“Whatever my team needs me to do. Today I started to play make a lot first, and whatever they needed me to do, that’s my job as a senior and as a leader of this team.”
(thoughts on Nico Carvacho’s play)
“I love when I see Nico (Carvacho) grab offensive rebounds because he always looks for me and I am just spotting up (laughing). But for real when Nico (Carvacho) gets offensive rebounds, he plays like a grown man even though he is a freshman. It is amazing how high he can get and the way he pulls them (rebounds) down - it is beautiful to watch.”
STAT OF THE GAME…
The Rams did a quality job of handling the ball, recording 18 assists (second most this season) and in giving up just six turnovers, records their highest single-game assist-to-turnover ratio of the year at 3.0.
• The Rams picked up their 24th win of the year, the third most single-season wins in program history. The other two also came under head coach Larry Eustachy, as CSU won 27 in 2015-16 and 26 in 2012-13.
• CSU has now won 13 of its last 16 games after starting the season 11-8.
• Colorado State improved its all-time record to 7-8 in the NIT, including 6-3 in games in Moby Arena.
• The Rams are now 19-2 this season when leading at the half and also when outrebounding their opponent.
• This was the first-ever meeting between the two schools on the basketball court and the fifth time the Rams had ever played a current Colonial Athletic Association opponent (now 3-2).
The Rams will await the winner of the Cal-CSU Bakersfield game in the second round, with site, date and time to be determined.
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