Thursday night, Colorado State used a 7-0 run the final one minute, 30 seconds of the first half to take a two-point, 30-28 lead. The teams traded five leads through the first seven minutes of the second half before Phil Cullen's three-pointer put Utah ahead to stay, 40-38. Colorado State would come no closer than four points the rest of the way despite a game-high 22 points by freshman center Matt Nelson.
Nelson made eight of 10 field goals and added six free throws along with six rebounds to pace the Ramas. Teammate Brian Greene, who has scored in double figures 24 games in a row, finished with 11 points, only three in the second half.
"I thought Matt Nelson played a terrific basketball game," said Layer.
The Rams made only 14 of 25 free throws, and second-year coach Dale Layer said that played a part in the team's loss to the Utes.
I thought the game was lost for us at the free throw line," he said. "We didn't step up and make big free throws."
Utah had four players finish in double figures including Jeff Johnson, who scored 21 points. His brother, Britton, had 11 points and a game-best 14 rebounds.
Colorado State shot a blistering 65 percent in the first half, making 13 of 20 field goals. But the Utes held the Rams to just 39 percent the second half, nine of 21 field goals. The Rams finished the game by shooting 51 percent from the floor, while Utah made 25 of 50 field goals, 50 percent. Like the Rams, they also made just 14 of 25 free throws.
"Their maturity really showed. They ran the clock down and made big shots. They seemed to get second shots after we had a good defensive possession. They executed better in the second half than we did."