Colorado State finally got the monkey off their back that’s been Viejas Arena. The Rams won an instant classic over the Aztecs Saturday afternoon by a final score of 78-77.
CSU won for the first time in San Diego since the 2002-03 campaign, a stretch of 14 games.
The Rams (14-8, 6-3) kept things close for much of the first half. Emmanuel Omogbo and Gian Clavell combined to score the first 11 points for the green and gold.
It was just the beginning for Larry Eustachy’s dynamic duo.
Malik Pope, who has enjoyed some of his best collegiate performances against the Rams, headed to the bench with two fouls near the midway point of the first half. CSU failed to take advantage, though as they got stuck in a 2-for-10 drought from the field.
SDSU ended the first half on an 11-0 run and took a 33-23 lead into the locker room. The Aztecs shot 44 percent compared to just 30 percent for the Rams.
While the first half may have been a defensive struggle, the second half quickly turned into a shootout. The Rams leaned on extraordinary efforts from Omogbo and Clavell, who both finished with career-highs for points.
Omogbo made several critical shots that helped CSU build momentum, as well as confidence. The senior forward finished with 24 points on 8-of-18 shooting, including a career-most four 3-pointers. He also tallied three assists and grabbed nine rebounds.
Eustachy’s other senior, Clavell, completely dominated the second half. The guard from Puerto Rico scored an eye-popping 30 points after the break, all of which were needed to complete the comeback win.
Clavell did it all, from getting to the basket and free throw line, to hitting contested shots from beyond the arc. None came bigger than when the Rams led 73-72 with 1:30 play. Clavell banked in a perfectly defended 3-pointer, increasing CSU’s lead to 76-72.
However, the Aztecs wouldn’t lay down at that point as they scored the next five points to retake the lead at 77-76 with 11 seconds remaining. Clavell finished off his magical performance with an end-to-end drive and finish with his left hand high off the glass.
SDSU had less than four seconds for a potential game-winner at the buzzer, but Jeremy Hemsley’s desperation 3-point attempt rimmed out.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Clavell – He finished with 37 points on 14-of-23 shooting, including 4-of-6 from deep and 5-of-5 from the free throw line. He came up two rebounds short of another double-double. Clavell also played a handful of minutes with four personal fouls.
BY THE NUMBERS
61 – Omogbo and Clavell clearly did the heavy lifting in this one, combining for 59 of CSU’s 78 points. The Aztecs, on the other hand, saw five players reach double figures.
61 – The Rams shot 61 percent in the second half, going 19-of-31 from the field. CSU seemingly couldn’t miss from 3-point range down the stretch, hitting seven of eight attempts.
3:22 – The amount of game time that the Rams held the lead for
This game sits alone as the most impressive victory for the Rams this season. It’s also arguably one of CSU’s most significant wins in the Eustachy era. We may look back on this as “The Gian Clavell Game.”
CSU returns home for a Tuesday night rematch with Boise State, a team that beat them last month with a buzzer-beating, banked 3-pointer. Both teams are currently just one game out of first place in the Mountain West. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. from Moby Arena.