FORT COLLINS | It wasn't pretty, not by a long shot. But Colorado State earned a hard-fought, 84-75 win over Fort Lewis College on Wednesday night to move to 2-0 on the young season.
Colorado State came out of the gate sluggish, shooting 5-of-18 from the floor and 0-8 from three-point range. CSU ultimately trailed a gritty FLC team at halftime 31-30.
Whatever Larry Eustachy told his team at halftime worked. The Rams started out the second stanza with higher energy, attacking the glass on both ends of the floor. J.D. Paige scored a quick five points and dished out a smooth assist to Emmanuel Omogbo for an easy basket. A little smack talk between Paige and a pair of Fort Lewis guards didn't seem to hurt CSU's motivational efforts, either.
In CSU's opening season win over New Mexico State, Che Bob established himself as a spark plug on both ends of the floor. The story was the same for the junior college transfer from South Plains (Tex.) on Wednesday. Bob slashed to the glass, played tight defense and earned tough put-back buckets to give the Rams some momentum in the second half. In only six first half minutes, Bob totaled 7 points. Given ample opportunity in the second half - playing 17 minutes - Bob tallied 13 points. For the game, the junior finished with 20 points and 7 rebounds.
Omogbo displayed his senior leadership by picking up the team even more. The big man out-jumped and out-muscled a smaller, less athletic Fort Lewis front court to dominate the glass. Omogbo stuffed the stat sheet with 20 points and a game-high 15 rebounds, using his size to his advantage. He went up strong time and time again to earn foul calls, which netted him 9 points at the line on 9-of-12 shooting.
CSU was plus-11 rebounding the ball and plus-8 in points in the paint. Simply put, CSU's shot wasn't falling. The question will continue to loom with the suspended Gian Clavell out of the lineup: Can the Rams shoot the ball consistently in his absence? A 5-for-19 effort from deep (26 percent) certainly aids the question. But what they did do was figure out what wasn't working and transition to a style of play that would net them more success.
The Rams utilized their size and athleticism inside to get the free throw line 24 more times than the Skyhawks. A 29-for-34 effort at the line by CSU put the team over the edge in getting a larger lead late and finally earning the 9-point victory. While the Rams struggled netting perimeter buckets for most the game, Paige and Prentiss Nixon did hit a handful of big shots in intervals to provide more than just an interior presence.
CSU's next contest is a tough one, as the Rams travel to Palo Alto Sunday for an afternoon tipoff against a much bigger and athletic Stanford squad. Tip is set for 4pm MST.
- Former Fort Collins (Colo.) Fossil Ridge star Alex Semadeni finished with 2 points and 3 rebounds for Fort Lewis.
- A scout from the Indiana Pacers was in attendance.
- Che Bob's 20 points was a career high, as the junior came off the bench to co-lead CSU in points along with Omogbo.
- Devocio Butler was the lone Ram held scoreless on 0-of-3 shooting.
- J.D. Paige finished with a game-high +20 +/- rating.
- Junior forward Kimani Jackson played the second half wearing jersey no. 23 after starting the game wearing his normal no. 0.