Nov. 18, 2007
FAIRBANKS, Alaska - Stuart Creason put the Rams ahead after they had trailed for 39 minutes and 45 seconds, earning MVP honors in the process, as the Colorado State men's basketball team won the BP Top of the World Classic tournament, 64-63, Sunday over Portland State. Marcus Walker earned all-tournament honors as well.
"I am really proud of our players," said Head Coach Tim Miles. "They found a way to win a tournament where most people would never have picked them to win this tournament. I am so encouraged by their competitive spirit, their desire to want to perform well. To put those aside and find a way to win is a tremendous performance by our guys."
Out of the halftime locker room, the Rams quickly attacked a seven-point deficit, cutting the lead to three on a pair of baskets by Creason and a layup in traffic. The Vikings and Rams then traded 5-0 runs, CSU responding when Willis Gardner converted a three-point play and Josh Simmons nailed a pair of free throws. After PSU turned the ball over and Walker ran the length of the floor for the easy basket cutting the lead to three, defense then created CSU's offense. The Rams collected three defensive boards and set up Adam Nigon's layup to make the score 42-41. Both teams had a three-point fest, trading four straight before the Vikings missed, putting CSU within three points with 5:23 remaining in the game. The Rams took advantage of poor PSU shot decisions, grabbing defensive rebounds to cut the lead to one point with 1:56 left. Then, a serious of shots, fouls and missed free throws kept CSU within one until just 15 seconds remained in the game.
That was when Creason battled down underneath, turned on the baseline and went up with the winning shot. Portland State missed a long attempt with no time left on the clock, giving the Rams the title. Creason finished the night with his second double-double of the season, 17 points and 10 rebounds. Gardner led all scorers with 21 points, adding six rebounds and two assists. The Rams shot 52 percent overall and an amazing 68.2 percent in the second half. But Creason's performance in the deciding moments was the difference.
"I could pick about three guys to be MVP but I am glad he won it," Miles said of Creason, his team's only returning starter. "He made great clutch plays for us. His character matches his ability and that is high praise considering his ability. He is our leader."
Early on, the Vikings exploded out of the gates, jumping out to an 8-0 lead in the first two minutes of the game. Out of CSU's time out, Creason converted the three-point play, hitting the free throw after sliding underneath the basket for the layup. The Vikings were able to quickly build the lead to 10 and the Rams kept things close through the half. CSU made a late run, cutting the lead from 10 to seven after a three-point bucket by Willis Gardner, making the halftime score 33-26. In the first half, Gardner led all players with 11 points to go with two rebounds and an assist. Creason notched seven points, pulled down eight rebounds and blocked two shots. Marcus Walker had four points and two assists. The Rams shot just 39.3 percent from the floor but were perfect from the free throw line.
Also in the first 20 minutes, both teams scored 16 points in the paint and CSU added nine points off turnovers. Portland State shot 44 percent from the field with Scott Morrison and Dupree Lucas leading the team with eight points each.
Colorado State will return to Fort Collins Monday to prepare for Saturday's game at Stanford, an 8 p.m. MST tip. The Rams will then open their home regular-season schedule Nov. 28 against Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
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