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Colorado State 85 – New Mexico State 83

December 1, 2013

Riveting.

Pulsating.

Enthralling.

Pick an adjective and it works to describe this one.

In easily the best game of this young season, the Rams scratched and clawed their way to victory over a very good New Mexico Aggie squad. The Aggies came into Moby at 7-1 and held a pair of wins over UTEP, a team that defeated CSU. The biggest front line In All of D-1 along with a talented trio of guards. It looked to be a matchup nightmare.

After 40 minutes, the Aggies had shot 52% from the field including 59% on 10-17 shooting from beyond the arc. For the game, the Rams shot 41% including a not so sparkling 29% from beyond the arc. Those are the numbers by which blowout are made.

Don’t tell that to Larry Eustachy’s squad, a collection of players who possess a marvelous spirit. They play the first possession like the last, full of energy and belief. They go after every loose ball like it’s their last. They fearlessly attack the rim, even against a 7’5″ center as wide as a mature oak tree.

After falling,behind early at 8-1, the Rams fought their way to the lead at 13-12. They held the lead for nearly the rest of the way and looked to have held an insurmountable lead at 77-68 with 1:40 remaining in the game. The Aggies were not to be deterred as they made shot after shot, one of which was an improbable heave from the corner. The same place UNMs Kendal Williams had fumbled and nailed a three ball last season against the Rams.

And when the Aggies tied the game up on a pair of Daniel Mullings free throws with 7 ticks left on the clock, the game looked like it was headed to OT.

But somehow an inbounds pass to Joe DeCiman found its way to Jon Octeus who dribbled furiously up the left side of the court. At the hash he began cutting toward the rim and when he took off about 15 feet from the basket it looked like one of his patemted runners might be in the cards. But Octeus saved his best assist for last (a career high 8) as he found JJ Avila alone at the rim for an uncontested layup. The final second was a formality as the Rams held on.

Avila was to overcome a foul interrupted first half, scoring 23 of his game high 29 in the second stanza. The points came from all over the floor as once again JJ showed his incredible offensive skills. Jon Octeus had 15, Marcus Holt and Daniel Bejarano added 11 each.

The telling stats for the team were what we have become familiar with under Larry Eustachy. A 45-36 rebounding advantage and +12 in turnover margin. Extra possessions and extra shots. Two more points than the other team. A famous victory and the Rams had moved their record to 6-2.

JJ Avila – This kid really does have some outrageous offensive skills. He can score from the perimeter, he can pull up and nail jumpers, and he can put the ball on the floor and get all the way to the rim where he finishes. And he shoots about 90% from the free throw line. He is not the quickest afoot but no matter. He just beats people

I talked with him a little after the game and he was bloodied and exhausted. When I asked if the game had been fun he responded with a “Not really. It was very tough out there.”

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Daniel Bejarano – You cannot appreciate how much this kid does on the floor to help his team win. He did not shoot well tonight but he made a couple of three balls, finished at the rim, and made important free throws. He channeled his inner Pierce Hornung grabbing an offensive board after one of his own missed shots. He finished with a game high 15 rebounds, as he somehow got his 6’4″ frame high above everyone. Even with a brace on one knee that is not exactly feeling great right now. The 15 rebounds were 7 more than the 8 which 7’5″ Sim Bhullar of NMSU grabbed.

And after the game I asked Daniel one question. I asked if he had ever played a game where he out rebounded a 7’5″ guy by 15 to 8.

Daniel looked at me and said, “uh. No.”

And then we laughed.

That’s the stuff of wins.

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