FORT COLLINS - With second place up for grabs, Colorado State had an opportunity to keep their momentum rolling with another victory. But the Rams three-game winning streak was snapped with a 79-76 loss Tuesday night to visiting Boise State.
CSU fell to 14-9 overall and 6-4 in Mountain West play.
The Broncos entered the contest with a league-best four road wins and they showed it right from tipoff. BSU's Chandler Hutchison recorded six points and three rebounds before the first media timeout, jumpstarting his team to an early 11-5 lead.
Leon Rice's crew played with the utmost confidence on offense, connecting on eight of their first 10 shots. James Reid led the initial charge as he hit a trio of 3-point shots to boost the Broncos lead to 21-7 at the 11:44 mark. CSU, meanwhile, started a cringe-worthy 2-of-12 from the field.
BSU's lead grew to as many as 19 points with 5:25 remaining in the first half. But on CSU's next possession, Gian Clavell finally got on the scoreboard with a 3-pointer from well beyond the arc as he was fouled. The reigning Mountain West Player of the Week sparked the home crowd with the four-point play.
CSU scored nine straight points and cut the Broncos lead to eight in the blink of an eye. The Rams ended the half on an 11-2 run punctuated by a 3-pointer at the buzzer by J.D. Paige. BSU took a 43-40 lead into halftime.
The Broncos shot 60 percent from the field in the opening frame, but the green and gold rallied back much in part to their 3-point shooting. CSU made 8-of-12 shots from the outside.
Both teams struggled to score at the outset of the second half. Whenever CSU seemed primed for another run, BSU answered. The Broncos held a lead anywhere between five and 10 points for a large part of the second half.
A Prentiss Nixon 3-pointer cut the lead to 56-54 with 11:38 remaining. However, BSU worked their lead back up to 11. But the Rams had one more run in them that started with another 3-pointer, this one from Emmanuel Omogbo.
Following a layup by Paige with 32 seconds, the Broncos led 73-72. CSU had possession down 75-72 after Paris Austin made two free throws, but a turnover by Nixon proved to be the dagger for the Rams.
"We got comfortable before the game," Nixon said. "They came out early and punched us in the mouth. It showed and we had to claw back and keep clawing back throughout the whole game."
QUOTE OF THE GAME
"We just got away from what we know. That's playing defense really hard, it's rotations, it's not getting out on shooters. That killed us. We were down most of the game. It was hard fighting back, but we just got away from who we are." - J.D. Paige
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Paige came alive on a night where Clavell struggled from the field. The guard from Denver finished with 20 points on 6-of-11 shooting, including 4-of-6 from 3-point range. He also tallied five assists.
BY THE NUMBERS
5 - Conference road wins for BSU, a league best
42 - Bench points for the Broncos, compared to just eight for the Rams
18 - Points for James Reid, who came in averaging nearly half that
Simply put, the Rams dug themselves way too big a hole in the first half and were forced to play catch-up for all but about two minutes of game action. Credit them for nearly completing the comeback, but they aren't awarded points for a close loss.
CSU tries to complete the season sweep of UNLV when they face off with the Rebels Saturday afternoon. Tipoff is set for 4 p.m.