The pieces aligned for potential disaster Wednesday night. But Colorado State shook off their most heartbreaking loss of the season, as well as news that three of their players would be academically ineligible for the spring semester in a 76-71 road victory over San Jose State.
The Rams (10-6, 2-1) sprinted out to a blistering start, scoring the game's first 13 points. CSU grabbed eight out of a possible nine rebounds to open things up. They also benefitted from the Spartans missing their first sevens shots from the field.
SJSU would get right back into it though as they went on a 20-2 run, with most of the damage coming after Emmanuel Omogbo picked up his second foul. The Spartans led by as many as five points at the 8:29 mark in the first half.
CSU got back on track toward the end of the half, in part thanks to Prentiss Nixon, who led all Rams with 10 points in the opening 20 minutes. Larry Eustachy and company took a 34-31 lead into the locker room at halftime. The Rams shot 43 percent while holding the Spartans to 33 percent.
The second half featured a pair of early CSU runs. In the first eight minutes, the Rams enjoyed an 8-0 run followed by a 7-0 run. SJSU kept it close though, never allowing the green and gold to pull away.
With just under four minutes to play, a quartet of Rams got into double figures. Brandon Clarke did a good chunk of the work for the Spartans, finishing with 24 points on 10-of-12 shooting.
The game's final minutes saw SJSU creep closer and closer to tying the game and even regaining the lead. The Spartans had a chance to tie it up with a 3-pointer, but missed badly on their possession.
CSU notched their second road win of the season and first since the end of November.
PLAYERS OF THE GAME
Omogbo - The senior forward recorded his seventh double-double of the season, a league-high. Omogbo finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds.
Nixon - Along with J.D. Paige, Nixon had a team-high 18 points. He was 5-of-10 from the floor and a perfect 8-for-8 from the free throw line.
Paige - The lefty missed just two shots and finished with 18 points on 7-of-9 shooting.
BY THE NUMBERS
499 - Career wins for Eustachy
14 - All-time wins against the Spartans for CSU. The Rams have never lost to SJSU.
4 - Combined points for Kimani Jackson, Che Bob and Devocio Butler nearly 24 hours after it was announced that the trio was declared ineligible for the spring semester
After failing to close out several previous games, Eustachy and the Rams absolutely had to have this game.
Eustachy will try to earn his 500th career win Saturday afternoon when Air Force visits Moby Arena. It will be a noon tipoff.