By Nic Hallisey
Athletic Media Relations
FORT COLLINS, Colo. – Freshman Dorian Green hit two clutch free throws with 9.8 seconds left and the Rams’ defense was able to deny Jack McGillis’ buzzer shot, as Colorado State edged Montana, 62-61, Saturday night at Moby Arena.
Trailing by one, 61-60, Green was sent to the line when Montana’s Anthony Johnson fouled the guard while driving to the lane. Entering the night as the team’s best free-throw shooter at 86.8 percent, Green, who led the Rams with 18 points, had connected on just three of his seven shots from the line at that point.
But the freshman was calm under pressure, draining both to give the Rams their game-winning points.
“I just wanted to focus on routine, just slowing down and not trying to rush my shot,” Green said. “I’m sticking to what I’ve been doing.”
On the ensuing possession, Johnson’s last-second attempt hit the side of the backboard, but the ball hit off Pierce Hornung before falling out of bounds with 1.2 seconds remaining.
Montana (6-4) inbounded the ball to McGillis, who had an open look underneath the basket, but his attempt at the buzzer wouldn’t fall.
“We got lucky,” Head Coach Tim Miles said. “That tests the maturity of your team. Tonight we weren’t mentally tough.”
With the win, the Rams improve to 7-3 on the season, and a perfect 5-0 at Moby Arena. It is both the best home start and overall start to a season since 2006-07, when the Rams started out 10-2, winning their first six at home.
Coming out sluggish, the Rams trailed by four less than 3 minutes into the contest. But they fought back, taking a 17-16 lead on an Adam Nigon layup with 8 minutes, 30 seconds remaining in the half, which started a 15-3 run over the next 6 minutes.
The Rams led by as many as 11 in the first half and headed into the intermission in command, 30-23. Nigon, who scored a career-high 17 points, equaled half of the team’s first-half points with 15 on 5-of-6 shooting, including 4-of-5 from beyond the arc.
Colorado State is now 5-0 on the season, and 7-0 all time, when Nigon scores in double figures.
“When the first two (shots) went in, I just kept letting it go and they kept going in,” the junior said.
The Rams led by 10 with 18:04 to play, but a 7-0 Montana run cut the gap to three. A Johnson jumper with 10:25 remaining, part of a 9-2 Grizzly run, tied the game at 43-43. The score was separated by more than a possession just once during the remainder of the game.
From that point on, the game was tied five times and the lead flipped eight times.
The Rams shot an impressive 50 percent (22-of-44) from the field and 46.7 percent (7-of-15) from three-point range, but shot just 50 percent (11-of-22) from the foul line.
Joining Green and Nigon in double figures was junior Travis Franklin, with 11. Hornung led the Rams with eight boards.
“We were sluggish for most of the game, but it was huge for our momentum and our program,” Nigon said. “It proves that we’re going to do the little things at the end of the game to win.”
Colorado State has the week off before wrapping up the homestand on Dec. 20 vs. Northern Arizona. Tip is set for 6 p.m. MT.