Men's basketball recap: Rams hold on late to beat UTEP
Jan. 2, 2013
By Craig Buchanan
Athletic Media Relations
FORT COLLINS, Colo. - The Colorado State Rams improved to 12-2 on Wednesday night, after they defeated the UTEP Miners, 62-58, at Moby Arena in front of a nationally televised audience.
“I think that was the kind of game that we needed,” Head Coach Larry Eustachy said. “I think that team could win Conference USA. They are well coached and they are going to get much better.”
With the win, the program’s home win streak now extends to 21 games, the fourth longest active streak in the nation.
Seniors Greg Smith and Colton Iverson led the way for the Rams offensively, scoring 18 and 17 points, respectively. Senior guard Wes Eikmeier was the only other Colorado State player to score in double figures with 12 points, while senior forward Pierce Hornung led the team with 10 rebounds.
Again the Rams relied on their strong defense, holding UTEP (6-6) to just 36.7 percent shooting from the field, to propel them to the victory. Colorado State focused especially on limiting the opportunities for UTEP’s leading scorer Konner Tucker, who came into the game averaging 15 points per game. Tucker was held to just three points.
“He had made 11 of his last 15 (threes) coming into here so our guys knew he could shoot,” Eustachy said of Tucker. “We really keyed on him and he just didn’t get any great looks.”
As a team, Colorado State shot 44 percent, and pounded the ball inside, outscoring the Miners 32-22 in the paint, but struggled to score from the perimeter.
“From day one I have sold that when we didn’t make baskets last year, we didn’t win,” Eustachy said. “We didn’t make baskets tonight. On the perimeter we were a total of 7-25 I think and we still won because we got some great stops. Our guys have totally bought in and they know they can get better.”
UTEP jumped out to a quick lead to start the game, but the Rams answered the call and took control of the first half with a 9-2 run to give the team a six point lead. With the score 17-15 with just over eight minutes left in the half, CSU closed out the half with a 12-4 run to extend the Rams’ lead to 10 points heading into the intermission.
That lead grew to as much as 13 points before the Miners began to chip away and make their comeback.
Behind sophomore guard Julian Washburn’s 21 points, and the play of fellow sophomore guard McKenzie Moore in the second half, UTEP erased the 13 point deficit and took the lead with 3:27 left in the game. It was UTEP’s first time leading since they were up 7-6 with 16:29 left in the first half.
“Washburn is something else. I think he is just terrific,” Eustachy said. “We had no answer for him in the second half.”
The Rams showcased their composure down the stretch of the game though, and responded with a basket both times that UTEP took a lead. Colorado State finished the game with an 8-3 run, and iced the game with a pair of free throws from Smith.
“We all have had enough experience; we don’t get rattled by these situations,” Iverson said of the tight finish. “We kept our composure and I thought we did a good job of just squeaking one out.”
Colorado State will look to extend its home win streak on Saturday when the Rams play host to the St. Bonaventure Bonnies. Tipoff is slated for 2:30 p.m. MT.