Dec. 23, 2012
LAS VEGAS, Nev. – Colorado State senior forward Pierce Hornung recorded a double-double with a career-high 24 points, and a game-high 11 rebounds, leading the Rams past the Portland Pilots, 70-53, and into the championship game of the Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic at the Orleans Arena.
The Rams (9-2) out-rebounded the Pilots, 35-29, and never trailed despite shooting just 1-of-15 from three-point range.
“I think it was a great win,” said Head Coach Larry Eustachy. “It only proves that when you don’t shoot it well, you can still win.”
Hornung, who led the Rams’ defensive effort that held Portland to 27 percent shooting in the first half (39 percent overall), was half of a Rams’ rebounding tandem – along with 10 boards from Daniel Bejarano – to help the team to a 35-29 advantage on the boards.
“We know when we play right, it takes team out of their game and that’s what we’re trying to do,” said Hornung echoing Eustachy’s postgame sentiments. “On a night when we struggled shooting, we still won handily.”
Colorado State led from wire-to-wire against the Pilots (6-7) and extended the lead to double-digits on the heels of an 11-0 run late in the first half. The Rams nearly held the Pilots without a point over the final 5:53 of the stanza before Korey Thieleke halted the run with an off-balance three as time expired in the half.
Colorado State picked up right where they left off after the break, and the lead grew to 18, 44-26 on a pair of Bejarano free-throws at the 15:41 mark of the second half. Bejarano was key to the Rams’ victory, also notching a double-double effort, the first of his career, with 10 points and a career-high 10 rebounds.
“We see it every day in practice,” said Hornung of Bejarano’s performance. “He hustles to every loose ball faster than all of us, and he gets up higher than all of us.”
Portland battled to stay in the contest, and cut the Rams’ lead to nine points, 57-48, on another off-balance, contested three-pointer, this time from Tanner Riley, with 5:48 remaining. The Rams responded by closing the game on a 13-5 run to come away with their third consecutive victory.
Senior guard Wes Eikmeier also tallied double-figures scoring for the Rams, pouring in 14 points, and adding three assists.
The Rams forced the Pilots into 13 turnovers, while committing just seven turnovers of their own, and outscored Portland, 12-5 off turnovers and 50-28 in the paint.
The Rams return to the court Sunday night, facing off against Virginia Tech (9-2) who advanced into the championship game thanks to an overtime victory, 66-65, over Bradley. Tipoff between the Rams and the Hokies is slated for 9:30 p.m. MT/8:30 p.m. PT and the game will be televised live on CBS Sports Network.