As the up-and-down of the Mountain West standings continue, so too does the stellar play of Colorado State. The Rams kept their winning ways going Tuesday night with a 78-73 win over Wyoming in Laramie.
CSU (18-9, 10-4) won their fourth straight game and has now prevailed in seven of their last eight contests. Larry Eustachy and company knocked off the Cowboys for the first time since 2013. The Rams also snapped a five-game winless streak against their rival to the north.
Prentiss Nixon and Gian Clavell got things going for CSU, scoring the game’s first five points. Meanwhile, Wyoming’s leading scorer Justin James notched 12 of his team’s opening 18 points. The first half got off to a furious up-and-down pace and featured hot shooting from both teams.
Wyoming and CSU combined to go 10-of-13 from beyond the arc early on in the first half. But as the shooting cooled, the pace of play did as well. The Rams took a 41-33 lead into the locker room, shooting 50 percent compared to the Cowboys 39 percent.
Momentum swung heavily toward Wyoming once the second half got started. The Cowboys cut the lead to 47-45 at the first media timeout, in part thanks to four straight missed free throws by the Rams. Fouls piled up for both teams in a hurry as well.
CSU then opened up their lead again with a 7-0 run punctuated by a 1-for-10 field goal stretch from the Cowboys. It wasn’t until the 11:50 mark that James scored his first points of the half.
The next handful of minutes consisted of ugly basketball, with the teams going a combined 4-of-20 from the field. And with Nico Carvacho and Nixon in foul trouble down the stretch, Eustachy relied on freshman Anthony Bonner and flu-ridden Braden Koelliker for quality minutes.
Wyoming didn’t go away despite their inability to make open shots. The Cowboys went on a run of their own to cut the lead to 67-64 with 3:19 to play. A 3-pointer from Jason McManamen soon after made it 69-68.
The play of the game took place with less than a minute on the clock. Clavell, who finished with 20 points despite connecting on just five of his 17 shots, sucked in the Wyoming defense with a drive to the basket before kicking it out to Nixon.
The sophomore guard swished a 3-pointer to give his team a 73-69 lead with 34 seconds left. Wyoming was unable to trim the lead with 3’s of their own, allowing Nixon and Clavell to salt the game away with free throws.
BY THE NUMBERS
32 – The number of 3-point attempts by the Cowboys
15 – Emmanuel Omogbo recorded his 15th double-double of the season. The senior forward finished with 19 points and 16 rebounds.
13 – The number of free throws missed by CSU. The Rams, who typically shoot well from the charity stripe, made just 21-of-34 attempts at the Arena Auditorium.
CSU’s win coupled with a Boise State loss at New Mexico would give the Rams sole possession of first place in the Mountain West temporarily – the cherry on top of a perfect Valentine’s Day for the team.
The Rams have a full week off before heading to New Mexico for a rematch with the Lobos. Though eyes will be on The Pit after last month’s heated affair in Fort Collins, it’s an incredibly important game for both teams in the standings.
Tipoff is set for Feb. 21 at 8 p.m.