FORT COLLINS | They did it again.
Colorado State's "Magnificent Seven" sent Moby faithful into a frenzy for a second straight game, winning on a waning-seconds three-pointer. Prentiss Nixon, who led all CSU scorers on Senior Night with 23 points, knocked down an off-balance three-pointer with five seconds left to lift the Rams to a 78-76 win over Border War rival Wyoming.
The past two games couldn't have been scripted any better from an entertainment standpoint. Coming off a game-winning three-point basket by Emmanuel Omogbo against San Diego State on Saturday, which resulted in a Moby court-storming, CSU nearly mirrored the same script Tuesday night. CSU led for most of the night, but after going ice cold in the second half and with Wyoming's Alan Herndon and Justin James on fire offensively, the Rams needed last second heroics once again.
And with Gian Clavell fouled out, Nixon stepped up when his team needed it most.
"Make the shot. I had to make it for these dudes," Nixon said of his final basket, while referring to seniors Omogbo and Clavell. "We worked hard all season for us to go out like that. Gian fouled out, so someone had to take the shot. The ball came to me with 12 seconds left on the clock and I stuck it."
Another win in the regular season finale Saturday at Nevada will give CSU its first outright regular season conference title in 27 years. Rams head coach Larry Eustachy was mild-mannered following the win, especially considering the big game heroics on a night he sent off two of his better seniors he has ever coached.
"I'd like to say we didn't play well, but we did. Give Wyoming all the credit; I'm not sure we should have won that game," Eustachy said after the win. "They played extremely well and we knew no lead was insurmountable for them, with how hard they play and how well they're coached."
The Rams got out to a 14-2 lead to begin the game, thanks to two deep three-pointers from Clavell, big shots from Nico Carvacho, and the hot shooting of Nixon. Nixon led all scorers in the first half with 18 points on 8-of-10 shooting. CSU led 48-41 at the break, thanks to a 62.5 percent field goal rate and 46 percent from behind the arc in the opening twenty minutes.
Wyoming, though, was able to inch back into the game due to the hot hand of Hayden Dalton, who tallied four first half three-pointers. The Cowboys made 8 first half three-pointers, which prevented CSU from pulling away. While the Rams lit up the stat sheet offensively, poor transition defense and lackluster rotational defense enabled Wyoming to creep back into the game.
The second half saw a different story. CSU shored up its defensive efforts, as Eustachy notably waved his team back after every offensive possession to ensure at least three Rams were back behind half court before a Cowboy even entered CSU territory. Unfortunately for the Rams, they hit a cold streak offensively after the 9:48 mark. Wyoming took advantage, going on an 11-0 run to tie the game at 66.
From there, scoring went back and forth, with Herndon, a Colorado Springs product, and James going off for the Pokes offensively. James, who came off the bench for Wyoming head coach Allen Edwards, scored 18 of his 24 points in the second half. He was equally as good, if not better, than Clavell late, hitting tough one-on-one shots and contested three-pointers. James scored Wyoming's last 8 points.
CSU, however, gritted out enough tough offensive possessions to respond to every Wyoming make. With CSU up 75-73 after a J.D. Paige free throw with 23 seconds to go, James hit an enormous three-pointer under duress to put Wyoming ahead by one with 17 seconds left. That's when Nixon took over and nailed an off-balance three-ball to ignite Moby Madness for the second time in four days.
"I'm doing whatever Prentiss tells me to do for the next week. You hear that, guys?" Clavell joked after the game. "I'm taking 'P' to dinner," Omogbo interjected. "I'm taking 'P' to Rodizios," Clavell added.
But playing for the conference championship Saturday, which will give the Rams a chance to win their first since 1990, is something Eustachy has coveted since he got to Fort Collins.
"Oh, it doesn't come any better than that. If you were to say we're going to Nevada to win a championship, I mean, you guys were the ones who picked us to finish 7th. That doesn't make you guys look very good," Eustachy jested with the media.
It's yet another remarkable win to add to a wacky, wild and memorable hoops season in Fort Collins. Now with their 10th win in 11 games, the Rams need one more to cap off a truly unforgettable year.
CSU will take on Nevada at 6pm MST Saturday. The game will be televised on ESPN3.