Sometimes in sports, you just have to tip your cap to the opponent. That's exactly what Colorado State did Monday night in an 81-63 losing effort to Cal-State Bakersfield in the second round of the National Invitational Tournament.
No. 4 CSU (24-12) fell victim to an improbable 3-point shooting barrage from the Roadrunners in the first half and never recovered. CSUB, a team that came in shooting 34 percent from deep, made 10-of-13 shots from beyond in the arc in the opening 20 minutes.
The Roadrunners zipped out to a 13-2 lead as CSU began 0-for-6 from the field. The Rams got to within one at the under-12 media timeout as Gian Clavell and Prentiss Nixon put up points in a hurry. Nixon, who seemingly played with more confidence every game, led the green and gold with 13 first half points.
But the shooting of CSUB simply overwhelmed the Rams. In the final minutes of the first stanza, the Roadrunners grew their lead with a 13-2 run and then a 14-2 run as the teams headed to the locker rooms.
Emmanuel Omogbo, Larry Eustachy's emotional leader and a double-double machine, was held scoreless in the first half to go with just two rebounds.
A well-packed Moby Arena was once again hoping for some second half magic, but the Rams just didn't have it. Despite the Roadrunners cooling off in the second frame, CSU was unable to take advantage and cut into the lead.
With the loss, it marks the end of the collegiate careers for Clavell and Omogbo. The two will go down as a few of the most decorated players in CSU history.
The roller coaster 2016-17 campaign resulted in 24 wins, the third-most in program history.
A down Mountain West could be wide open once again next season. The Rams lose Omogbo and Clavell, but should be encouraged by the growth of Nixon and J.D. Paige. But in order for CSU to make any sort of noise in 2017-18, Nico Carvacho must step up and play more consistent minutes for Eustachy. It wouldn't be surprising for Anthony Bonner to play starter's minutes at times. Look for Braden Koelliker to continue to be a staple on Eustachy's bench.
A slew of transfers will also suit up for the Rams including Robbie Berwick, Kevin Dorsey, Lorenzo Jenkins, Kevin Little and Raquan Mitchell.