FORT COLLINS | Colorado State used a big second half at home Saturday against Fresno State to come away with a 78-62 win over the Bulldogs. The victory keeps the Rams within a game of first-place Boise State in the Mountain West standings. It was also CSU's third straight win of 16 points or more.
Slow starts followed by strong finishes have been a bit of a trend recently for the Rams, who shot just 10-for-29 to open the game, yet led 31-29 at the half. The same is true for star guard Gian Clavell, who scored just three first half points. Part of that, though, was the strong play of J.D. Paige, who scored 14 points in the opening half, which included four three-point makes.
Clavell, however, seems to play his best as the game progresses. Saturday was no different for CSU's senior leader. Clavell lit up the basket from downtown on several occasions to ignite a crowd of 5,233 at Moby Arena and finish with 19 points. He scored 16 of those in the second half.
The biggest story of the game was Paige's 23 points, which tied a career-high. With Clavell and the other starters struggling to find the hoop early, Paige become the go-to scorer. His teammates realized he had the hot hand and looked to get him as many looks as they could.
“My teammates were looking for me. They have tremendous confidence in me," Paige said. "I am not going to let anybody down on the team... Got to make the shot.”
CSU (17-9, 9-4 MW) wasn't the most efficient team offensively to open the game, but they used stout defense to create offense. The Rams helped force 19 Bulldogs turnovers, which translated to 11 fast break points.
The Rams also didn't rebound the ball particularly well, with the exception of Nico Carvacho, who came down with 11 rebounds. Emmanuel Omogbo, who averaged 11 rebounds per game coming in, secured just three while tallying 17 points.
The win wasn't pretty, but CSU continues to prove it can win big, even when shots aren't falling at spurts.
“I feel like we are dangerous all the time because anybody can get going," Paige said. "We don’t even really care about offense. We are about getting stops and keeping the other team off the boards.”
CSU travels to Laramie Wednesday to face Border War foe Wyoming, who swept the season series last year.