Nov. 22, 2013
By Craig Buchanan
Athletic Media Relations
FORT COLLINS, Colo. – Back in the comfortable confines of Moby Arena, the Colorado State Rams (3-2) edged out in-state rival Northern Colorado, 72-65.
Colorado State improved to 3-0 at home on the year behind tough interior play against the Bears (2-2). Junior forward J.J. Avila led all scorers with 28 points on nine-of-13 shooting, and connected on all 10 of his free-throw attempts. Avila has now led the Rams in scoring in each of the past three games, and is averaging 25.7 points per game over that span.
“We’re trying to get J.J to be more selfish and to shoot the ball more,” Head Coach Larry Eustachy said. “That’s hard because he’s such an unselfish player; it’s his game. He always responds though.”
Junior guard Daniel Bejarano (13), senior guard Jon Octeus (11) and junior forward Marcus Holt (11) joined Avila in double-figures to help lead the Rams to victory.
“We really did some things with a lot of heart and made plays,” Eustachy said. “In spite of all the adversity, we still made the plays defensively. We got back to who we are against a team who I think can win the Big Sky Conference. I’m ecstatic.”
While the Rams struggled to find their shot, connecting on just one of 12 three-pointers, the team made up for it by returning to the physical, relentless style that Eustachy-led teams are known for. Colorado State out-rebounded Northern Colorado 41-26 in the game and had 15 offensive rebounds which helped spur the offense. The Rams out-scored the Bears 34-24 in the paint and 18-0 on second-chance points.
No one was bigger on the boards than Bejarano, who had four offensive rebounds and 10 in the game to register his second double-double of the season. Octeus also made sure to make an impact on the game with nine rebounds as well.
Matching up against one of the nation’s top rebounders, the Rams put a lot of focus into controlling that aspect of the game.
On Friday night, Colorado State proved its worth by limiting Northern Colorado senior forward Derrick Barden to just 11 points and five rebounds. Barden entered the contest against CSU averaging 16.3 points per game and 13.7 rebounds per game, but really struggled to get into any rhythm against the Rams’ defense.
While Colorado State controlled the glass, it still needed to find a way to grind out the victory. Both teams battled back-and-forth and neither team was able to extend a lead to more than three points in the first 16 minutes of the game. With four minutes left in the first half, the Rams opened up a five-point lead at 26-21, but UNC quickly responded with back-to-back baskets to tie the game back up. The Bears closed the first half on a 7-2 run to take a 35-32 lead into halftime, marking the first time this season that the Rams entered the locker room trailing at home.
The second half continued in the same fashion as the first half, with both teams swapping baskets and staying within three points of each other. Midway through the second half, UNC used a 9-2 run to open up the largest lead of the game at 55-48.
Over the next three minutes, the Rams responded with a 10-2 run of their own to take the lead at 58-57. The two teams exchanged leads on each of the next six possessions, in a game that featured 13 ties and 14 lead changes, before the Rams took the lead for good with 4:41 left in the game.
Colorado State made just one field goal in the last five minutes of the game, but exhibited great free-throw shooting (nine-for-10) as the team iced the game down the stretch. As a team, the Rams shot 33 free throws in the game, 20 more than UNC attempted, and converted on 25 of them.
CSU will now turn its attention to Prairie View A&M (1-3) which comes into town on Monday. The game will tip off at 7 p.m. MT and will be streamed on the Mountain West Network.
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