FORT COLLINS — For the second time in four nights, the Colorado State men’s basketball team found itself behind late against a Mountain West conference foe at home late Friday night at Moby Arena.
But just like they did Tuesday against Air Force, Friday night against UNLV the Rams made a late run and pulled away for a 78-75 victory. The only difference was that Friday’s win didn’t require overtime like Tuesday’s did.
With the win, in front of a sold-out crowd of 8.083 fans, the Rams improved to 15-3 overall and 3-2 in the Mountain West. CSU also matched its win total from all of last season.
“High-level basketball game tonight,” CSU head coach Niko Medved said. “Two good teams going at it. I thought both teams played well in a lot of areas. The crowd was awesome. You could feel it. Friday nights at Moby, another high-level Mountain West game.
“I thought, for the most part, I thought we showed a ton of resolve tonight. We knew UNLV is playing great, a really good team and they’re hard to handle.”
CSU led for only three minutes and 39 seconds of the first half and trailed 39-32 at halftime. The second half didn’t start much better for the Rams as they never got closer than four points before the Rebels took a 10-point lead at 52-42 with 13:19 left in the game.
A driving layup by Isaiah Stevens started a 14-4 run that ended with a layup by Joel Scott which tied the game at 56 with 10 minutes remaining.
UNLV went back ahead by as many as six, but the Rams continued to battle. With 3:17 left in the game, CSU tied it again at 68. The Rams never trailed again.
A 3-pointer by Stevens put them up 71-68 with 2:35 to go and a 3-pointer by Patrick Cartier gave the Rams a four-point lead at 74-70 with 2:05 remaining.
Colorado State’s Joel Scott brings the ball up the court against UNLV on Friday night at Moby Arena in Fort Collins. (Nathan Wright/Loveland Reporter-Herald)
UNLV got within two at 74-72, but a pair of free throws by Cartier and another two by Scott gave the Rams their largest lead of the second half, and matched their largest lead of the game, at six points with four seconds remaining.
The Rebels made a last-second 3-pointer, but there was no time left after the basket.
“I think it was just staying with it,” Stevens said. “We were coming back to all these time outs and all these tight huddles that we have with each other, and we were super pleased with the types of shots we were getting. We’ve been talking so much about finding our rhythm and finding our groove, trusting our offense, trusting our flow. I felt like we did that for all 40, honestly, outside of a few possessions here and there.”
Nique Clifford led the Rams with 21 points. The transfer from Colorado was 7-for-8 from the field, 3-for-3from behind the arc and 4-for-4 from the free-throw line.
Stevens added 18 and seven assists. Scott had 14 points and Cartier added 10.
The game was tight early with CSU taking a 14-8 lead with 13:47 left in the first half on a 3-pointer by Josiah Strong. UNLV answered with a 10-0 run to go ahead 18-14 and the Rams played much of the rest of the first half from behind.
With 4:42 left, a layup by Clifford gave the Rams a 25-24 lead, but the Rebels closed the half on a 15-7 run to take a 39-32 lead into halftime.
“I thought, offensively, we kind of did get back to being who we are,” Medved said. “I thought we made a couple of shots early and then we went through a stretch where we could not make an open shot. I thought we were getting good looks, really moving the ball, cutting well. We just couldn’t get anything to go. But we hung in there.”
CSU will be back in action Wednesday at Nevada.