On Thursday in Lexington (KY), the #8 seed Colorado State Rams (26-8, 11-5 Mountain West) eliminated the #9 seed Missouri Tigers (23-11, 11-7 SEC) from the NCAA Tournament by the final score of 84-72.
Colorado State jumped out to an early lead, and the Rams never relinquished it.
“Colorado State played very well,” said Missouri Head Coach Frank Haith.
Missouri failed to play with the requisite defensive mindset and focus, and Colorado State scored efficiently and often. Against Missouri, the Rams scored an amazing 1.27 points per possession! Colorado State shot 49% from the field, including 50% from 3-PT range, and made 27 free throws. The Rams also led 42-19 in rebounding. Colorado State’s point guard, 6’2” 192-pound senior guard Dorian Green paced the Rams with 26 points. He outplayed Missouri’s much-ballyhooed point guard, Phil Pressey, on both ends of the court and in every way imaginable.
Particularly distressing was Pressey complete ineptitude on the defensive end. His teammates were only marginally better. On the offensive end, Pressey scored 20 points on 19 shots. Alex Oriakhi scored 16 points. He was perfect from the field and perfect from the FT line, but he took just 6 shots. In addition to his bullfighter impersonation on the defensive end, Pressey failed to get the ball to Oriakhi.
At least Pressey got the postgame interview right when he said, “We got beat in every aspect of the game.”
The game began with Colorado State hitting wide-open triples. Missouri didn’t have the requisite defensive focus or intensity, and the Rams were getting terrific looks from the outside. On the other end, Phil Pressey launched a pair of threes that weren’t close. Jabari Brown hit one, then immediately went to a heat check, launching a deep three on the move. Colorado State was perfect from the floor, and the Rams led 15-7, with 15:03 remaining in the first half.
Missouri came out of the timeout playing better defense, and the Tigers got a couple of stops. Then, Pressey became impatient on the offensive end, and took an early three. Colorado State rebounded the miss. On the other end, Pressey went under a screen, and Green hit a three to extend the Rams’ lead to 20-12, with 11:55 remaining in the first half.
Colorado State’s big man, 6’10” 261-pound fifth-year senior center/forward Colton Iverson picked up his second foul and had to sit. Missouri got the ball to Alex Oriakhi down low for a bucket. The Tigers had substituted, and they had lost their defensive intensity. Missouri left Green wide-open in the corner for another three, and Colorado State led 29-16, with 7:06 remaining in the first half.
Missouri cut the lead to 6 points, then immediately left Green wide-open for another three. Colorado State led 38-29, with 3:25 remaining in the first half.
Colorado State took a 47-38 lead into the halftime locker room. The Rams had shot 58% from the field in the first half, including 60% from 3-PT range.
CSU won the battle of the boards in the first half by a 17-7 margin, and the Rams had outscored the Tigers 11-4 at the FT line. Green led the Rams with 17 first-half points.
Colorado State Head Coach Larry Eustachy was concerned with foul trouble, as all three of his bigs, including Iverson, 6’6” 221-pound senior forward Greg Smith, and 6’9” 210-pound junior forward Gerson Santo had each picked up 2 fouls in the first half.
Missouri also had three players with 2 first-half fouls, including Tony Criswell, Earnest Ross, and Jabari Brown. Alex Oriakhi, who went to the halftime locker room with 10 points, was perfect from the floor and from the FT line in the first half. Missouri had failed to play quality defense throughout much of the first half, and the Tigers were fortunate to still be in the game.
Missouri began the second half with a little more energy. A 5-0 run cut Colorado State’s lead to 4 points. The Tigers continued to try to go inside to Oriakhi, and Iverson picked up his third foul. The Rams led 51-45, with 15:51 remaining in the game.
Colorado State quickly pushed their lead back out. The Tigers were terrible on defense, and they were getting killed on the boards. Phil Pressey was barely guarding anyone, and the Rams were getting easy buckets at the basket. Colorado State led 66-51, with 11:19 remaining in the game.
Pressey got inside, but he couldn’t finish. Missouri was treading water. Colorado State led 69-55, with 7:36 remaining.
Missouri went to some full court pressure, and the Tiegrs were able to make up some ground on the scoreboard. But, Oriakhi and Brown each picked up their fourth foul, and Pressey and Earnest Ross each turned the ball over. CSU led 76-65, with 3:21 remaining.
Following his team’s season-ending loss, Coach Haith bristled under the barrage of questions about what went wrong with his team during the 2012-2013 season.
“I’m proud of what this team did this year,” said Coach Haith. “There’s a lot of teams that didn’t play in the NCAA Tournament this year. We had one guy returning from last year’s team. This team made it to the NCAAs. I’m very proud of what this team accomplished this year.”