March 16, 2013
LAS VEGAS, Nev. – Colorado State senior center Colton Iverson turned in what Head Coach Larry Eustachy called one of the top performances ever by one of his players, tallying a hard-fought 24 points and 16 rebounds, but it was not enough to lift the No. 2-seeded Rams past the No. 3-seeded UNLV Runnin’ Rebels on Friday night at the Reese’s Mountain West Championships.
The host Rebels (25-8) captured the 75-65 victory over the Rams (25-8) to advance to Saturday’s conference championship game against the top-seeded New Mexico Lobos.
“I don't know when I've had an effort, let alone a performance, like Colton Iverson,” said Eustachy in his postgame press conference. “For his size, his effort I'd have to think long and hard when I've had somebody do that.”
Iverson helped the Rams jump out to an early lead, then pulled the team back into the game late in the first half when it seemed UNLV would pull away. Finally, the 6-10, first-team all-MW performer kept the Rams in the contest throughout the second half before UNLV closed the game with a late flurry.
Iverson opened the contest by scoring six of the team’s first eight points, as Colorado State held onto an early 8-4 lead following his dunk off the beautifully executed pick-and-roll with Wes Eikmeier.
UNLV freshman guard Katin Reinhardt, who scored a career-high 21 points, sparked the Rebels with seven points as part of a 12-2 between the 14:55 and 13:23 marks of the first half. The run pushed the Rebels from a three-point deficit to a seven-point lead.
The Rams tied the contest four minutes later on a three-pointer from Dorian Green to cap a 7-0 run of their own. Green, the Rams’ all-time leader in games played, returned to the starting lineup after missing the first game of his career on Wednesday in CSU’s quarterfinal victory over Fresno State.
“He has no choice but to be fine; He's out of time,” added Eustachy of Dorian’s return from a sprained ankle. “I thought he showed a lot of guts wanting to play tonight … I thought that was very, very encouraging what I saw from Dorian tonight.”
The Rebels retook a lead they would never relinquish behind a barrage of four-consecutive three-pointers from Mountain West Freshman of the Year Anthony Bennett, who hit three, and Reinhardt, who added a dagger at the 5:00 mark of the half to push the Rams’ deficit to 37-24.
Iverson scored eight of the Rams’ final 12 points of the half, and had another bucket – a tip-in at the buzzer – waived off by video replay, to help the Rams climb within six points, 42-36, at the break.
Iverson went back to work early in the second half, opening the stanza with a big putback dunk just 13 seconds in to cut the deficit to four points, 42-38, and his lay-in at the 14:35 mark got CSU back within 47-46.
UNLV answered with a 5-0 run of their own to separate from the Rams, but an Eikmeier three-pointer with 5:21 remaining, kept the Rams’ within striking distance at 64-61.
Eikmeier finished the game with 13 points, while dishing out a game-high five assists.
UNLV closed the game on an 11-4 run, holding the Rams scoreless for more than four minutes, to advance to the league championship game.
“I think there were times when we were out determined and we reverted back to some old ways,” added Eustachy. “Give UNLV a ton of credit. That's as well as I've seen them play. They had players step up and make plays when it counted.”
The Rams, winners of a school-record 25 games, will now return home to Fort Collins where the team will await Sunday’s announcement of the 2013 NCAA tournament field. CSU should earn a spot in the Field of 68, as an at-large bid, for the second consecutive season, and the 10th time in program history.
The team will host a public viewing party for Sunday’s selection show, from 3-6 p.m. MT at the Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant in Fort Collins. Additional information can be found here.
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