Strong defensive effort keys Rams' victory over Bethune-Cookman

By  | 

FORT COLLINS, Colo. - Junior forward J.J. Avila led all scorers with 21 points on seven-of-12 shooting, as the Colorado State Rams improved to 5-2 on the year with a 66-52 victory over Bethune-Cookman (2-5) at Moby Arena on Wednesday afternoon.

Junior guard Jon Octeus (14) and junior forward Gerson Santo (12) also had double-figure scoring efforts, as the Rams relied heavily on their defense to secure the win over the Wildcats. Bethune-Cookman was held to just 40 percent shooting from the field and was forced into 11 turnovers, which the Rams converted into 14 points.

"I thought that was a tough game to play," Head Coach Larry Eustachy said. "I thought our guys were workmen like, and just plowed through it. That team had a really good plan to shorten the game. I thought we guarded for long periods of time and responded well."

Colorado State was especially effective protecting the rim. Junior guard Daniel Bejarano led all players with two steals and two blocks, as the Rams had a season-high seven blocks. The seven blocks are the most for the Rams since they also blocked seven shots against Chadron State on Nov. 15, 2012.

As opposed to its previous games, Colorado State did not out-rebound Bethune-Cookman to help generate more opportunities. Instead, the Rams relied once-again on a relentless attacking style to earn free throws. In the game, Colorado State converted on 29 of its 36 free throw attempts, while Bethune-Cookman only got to the line 11 times.

CSU struggled to find its shot in the game, shooting just 40 percent, making each possession all the more valuable. While the Rams were stingy on defense, they made sure to take care of the ball on the offensive side with only five turnovers in the whole game. The five turnovers were the fewest by a CSU team since Jan. 30, 2013 when the Rams had five against Boise State.

"The five turnovers is just an amazing stat," Eustachy said. "It really equals talent, which means that we have some talented guys."

The Rams scored on their first possession and led for the duration of the game. With CSU leading 12-10, the Rams used a 16-5 run over a 6:29 period to take control of the game. Behind 50 percent shooting in the first half and 16 points from Avila, the Rams took a 35-21 lead into the intermission.

Coming out of the second half however, the CSU started off cold and missed its first seven shots of the second half before Octeus got the team on the board four minutes into the half with a layup. Behind the cold start from the Rams, Bethune-Cookman made a small run of its own to make it a six point game at 39-33 with 13:45 left in the game, marking the closest it had been since the 12:14 mark of the first half.

The Rams clamped down on defense and responded with an 18-5 run to once again push the lead to a comfortable margin at 57-38 with 6:26 left in the game. Colorado State closed the game and held on for the 66-52 victory.

"This team tried to slow it down on us and we played to their game instead of playing our game," Octeus said. "You have to learn from it; it's a learning experience, but we got the stops we needed."

CSU now turns its attention to New Mexico State for the conclusion of the Colorado State Challenge. The Rams will take on the Aggies on Saturday at 4 p.m. MT which will be televised on ROOT Sports.