Nov. 30, 2013
FORT COLLINS, Colo. – The celebration had to wait one final second, but it was certainly worth the wait for the Colorado State men’s basketball team.
The Rams improved to 6-2 on Saturday evening, knocking off the New Mexico State Aggies (7-2) in spectacular fashion thanks to a near buzzer-beater that capped a 29-point performance from junior forward J.J. Avila.
In a game in which neither team could capture a double-digit lead, and there were six ties and seven lead changes, it was fitting that game would come down to a last-second shot by Avila who finished with a game-high scoring performance, one off his season-best, to lead four Rams in double figures in the contest.
“One of the more exciting games I’ve been in,” said 23-year coaching veteran Larry Eustachy. “I thought it was a good game. It would have been unfortunate if we wouldn’t have come out on the winning end, particularly when we got (New Mexico State) to nine points, and it took an incredible chain of events, with their talent, to come back and tie it up at the end …. It is a nice feeling when we can zip it up the court to J.J. (Avila), and make a layup. The guys are proud of themselves.”
With 7 seconds on the clock, and the game tied at 83, Daniel Bejarano inbounded the ball, from under the New Mexico State basket, to Joe De Ciman who raced up the far sideline, opposite the Rams’ bench, before passing ahead across the half-court line to John Octeus.
Octeus then appeared to be taking the ball directly to the hoop for the final shot, before dishing off at the last moment to a streaking Avila who made the uncontested layup with 1 second on the clock, giving the Rams an 85-83 advantage and setting the 3,693 fans at Moby Arena on to their feet.
“Seven seconds is a lot of time,” said Octeus who finished with eight assists and 15 points in the contest. “I’ve learned that over the last couple of years playing here. I drove to the basket and went for the layup and then I saw J.J. out of the corner of my eyes so I just dropped it to him and he finished.”
“I don’t think New Mexico State knew how much time was left so they figured Jon was going to try and finish it,” added Avila of Octeus’ big assist. “He made a great play dumping it off and won us the game. I was happy we won. It was a great team and I’m really happy we pulled it off.”
After the CSU bench erupted in celebration, the Rams had to regain composure, as the officials went to the replay monitor to determine that there was still 1 second on the clock following Avila’s bucket.
Bejarano then stepped in to intercept the ensuing in-bounds pass, sealing the victory and pushing the Rams’ non-conference home win streak to 21 consecutive games.
Bejarano and junior forward Marcus Holt joined Avila and Octeus in double-figures scoring for the Rams, each pouring in 11 points. Bejarano also pulled a game-high 15 rebounds in 38 minutes of action, including four offensive boards, while Holt added three blocks in 17 minutes off the bench.
The Rams appeared to have the game well in hand late in the second half as the lead ballooned to nine points, 77-68, after a pair of Avila free throws with 1:41 left in the game.
But the Aggies responded, as they had all night, knocking down three improbably three-pointers in the final 1:24 to keep the game within reach right down to the final second.
The Aggies were led in scoring by guards Daniel Mullings (24 points) and DK Eldridge (23 points), while 7-5 center Sim Bhullar added 13 points, eight rebounds and four blocks in the contest.
The Rams forced the Aggies into 21 turnovers in the contest, as Bejarano and Octeus overcame poor shooting nights to contribute, along with senior forward Gerson Santo, three steals each in the game. CSU also finished the game with a distinct advantage on the boards, outrebounding NMSU 45-36, led by Bejarano’s 15 and six each from Avila and freshman guard Carlton Hurst, who made his second-career start.
Added Eustachy: “Daniel was 3-for-15, you put Octeus and him together, 8-for-29, and we still win the game. That shows you what it’s about: defending and rebounding. Great win.”