Men's basketball recap: Rams down Gamecocks to earn Sun Bowl Invitational title
Dec. 29, 2011
By Danny Mattie
EL PASO, Texas - The Colorado State men's basketball team overcame a slow start Thursday night behind a 25-point effort from tournament MVP Wes Eikmeier to capture a 79-56 victory over Jacksonville State in the championship game of the Bank of the West Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational.
The Rams (9-4) picked up their fourth consecutive win as Eikmeier, the second-leading scorer in the Mountain West, tied his career high to lead the Rams past the Gamecocks (5-9).
"Wes really had a great tournament and was a go-to guy for us," said Head Coach Tim Miles. "There was a time in the second half that he just took over and that was a critical moment for us."
Just as he had done the night before against host UTEP, Eikmeier rose to the occasion when his team needed him most. After JSU scored the opening five points of the second half to cut CSU's advantage to 36-31, Eikmeier recorded nine of the Rams' next 11 points as part of an 11-5 run that saw CSU push its lead back to double digits, 47-36, with 13:30 left in the contest.
The Rams' lead would never dip below eight points for the remainder on the contest, as CSU turned up its defensive effort to hold of the Gamecocks comeback attempts.
Senior forward Will Bell joined Eikmeier on the all-tournament team, tying his season high with 12 points for the third consecutive game.
"I thought that Will did an excellent job this week," added Miles. "He made some outside shots, some 10-15 footers, and then finished some tough plays around the rim."
Junior forward Pierce Hornung pulled down a game-high 12 rebounds, his third game of the season with 10 or more boards, helping CSU to a 36-31 rebounding edge.
The Rams outshot the Gamecocks 60 percent to 32.1 percent, while connecting on nearly 77 percent from the free-throw line in the contest. Eikmeier was 10-of-12 from the charity stripe.
In addition to Eikmeier and Bell, sophomore guard Dwight Smith also finished in double figures, tallying 15 points on 5-of-5 shooting from the field and 4-of-5 from the free-throw line. Smith also knocked down his only three-point attempt, one of two for the Rams (Eikmeier was 1-of-4), who overcame a poor shooting night from beyond the arc (2-for-8) to get the win.
Colorado State will now have nine days off before returning to the court Jan. 7 at home against Nebraska-Omaha. Tipoff between the Rams and the Mavericks is slated for 7 p.m. MT at Moby Arena.