For the first time since 2003, Colorado State will travel back to Fort Collins victorious following a trip to San Diego State. The Rams used career highs of 37 points from Gian Clavell and 24 points from Emmanuel Omogbo on Saturday to top the Aztecs on the road, 78-77.
The Rams trailed by 13 points with 16 minutes to go, but used hot shooting from Clavell and Omogbo to erase the deficit and come away with the hard-fought win. Clavell's driving layup in traffic with 3.8 seconds remaining propelled the Rams to victory. It was CSU's third straight win and keeps the Rams within a game of first place in the conference standings.
"I thought it was a game for the memory books," head coach Larry Eustachy said after the game. "If you watched it on TV or you were here live, or you were able to have the luxury of coaching in the game, I think everything played out perfect. Gian Clavell had four fouls. We took him out and sat him for about four seconds and then put him back in. When you've got somebody like him and Emmanuel (Omogbo), you feel like you've got a chance."
Both teams played well early, going back and forth with big jumpers and highlight-reel dunks until the Rams went cold to end the half. The Aztecs scored the final 11 points of the half over a 4:13 span to take a commanding 33-23 lead into the half.
CSU (14-8 overall, 6-3 MWC) cut SDSU's lead to single digits with 14:19 remaining on a Clavell three-pointer. From there, Clavell and Omogbo continued to carry the Rams and cut into the Aztecs' lead.
Of CSU's 55 second-half points, Clavell and Omogbo combined for 47 of them. Clavell went off for an incredible 30 points, scoring 11-of-14 field goals, making all three of his three-point attempts, and going a perfect 5-for-5 at the free throw line. Adding more to his eye-popping performance was a single second half turnover, plus five rebounds, a steal and a block over a final stretch in which he was the primary ball handler nearly every possession. He also played the final stretch with four personal fouls.
Similarly, Omogbo was a spotless 3-for-3 from behind the arc and 4-for-4 from the charity stripe over the game's final 20 minutes. His inside-out game worked to near perfection, keeping Aztec defenders on their heels all game. Omogbo finished 4-for-4 from three-point range and scored numerous times from dibble-drives from the top of the key, using varied slashes, or as a post-up man.
Five Aztecs finished in double-figures, led by Malik Pope's 19 points and Jeremy Hemsley's 17. SDSU shot nearly 45 percent from the field, but were just 6-for-22 from behind the three-point line.
Considering the Rams' predicament of being down to seven scholarship players, the win at San Diego State, against a talented team that has struggled to a 3-5 mark in Mountain West play, was of enormous importance.
"That was one of the better performances... under the circumstances when you look at everything that's happened to this program from the beginning to the season to where they find ourselves now," Eustachy said of Clavell's performance. "It makes it an unbelievable storyline."
Not only were Clavell and Omogbo monsters on the offensive end, they both out-toughed a bigger Aztec front court on numerous possessions to combine for 17 rebounds. Clavell heard frequently from the Aztec faithful - students better known as "The Show" - for the entirety of the game.
While he and the students did a fair amount of jawing back and forth throughout the contest, Clavell was simply thrilled to come away with the long-awaited victory on Steve Fisher Court.
"I love San Diego State - Coach Fisher, the players. I have always wanted to win here and I just heard that we haven't won here since 2003. I think this was my best win at Colorado State. I'm just grateful that we came here and got the win."
The Rams return home to Moby Arena for a contest against Boise State (13-7, 6-3 MWC) on Tuesday. The Broncos currently sit alone in second place, even though both teams are 6-3. BSU holds a tie-breaker over CSU, since they beat the Rams 74-73 on December 31. Tipoff is scheduled for 7pm.