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Colorado State 81 – San Jose State 72

January 26, 2017

What a difference a week and a half makes!

Last time out in Moby, Colorado State was trounced by New Mexico. But it wasnt that they lost. It was how unfocused they had played with issues that began pre-game manifesting during the game and then finally boiling over post-game.  It was followed by a stinker in Fresno and all of a sudden, a team reduced to 7 scholarship players looked vulnerable.  Then a solid road win at Utah State and it looked like the Rams were back on track.  The San Jose game in Moby took on some meaning because it would serve to validate whether the Rams were truly back.

And the Rams answered all questions as they together defended intelligently with high energy, attacked the Spartans from all angles on offense, and pounded their opponents into submission on the glass.

CSU was led by their seniors Gian Clavell and Emmanuel Omogbo.  The key word is led. Both Clavell and Omogbo had played like a pair of freshmen against New Mexico and with the Rams being so thin on the bench, that could not continue.  

Clavell played his best game ever on this night and it had nothing to do with his final point total. As he was taking the court for the opening tip, Gian was bouncy and focused. And that continued for the entire 40 minutes as Clavell never got a rest.  He was defending actively; his feet were moving, his hands were flashing.  He was rising above the crowd on the defensive glass. And oh was he dialed in on the offensive side. Turnaround jumpers, pull-ups off one foot,  a three-ball coming off a screen, a tip in.  Nothing forced, all in balance and under control.  At games end he had a double-double, scoring 24 and grabbing 12 boards.

Omogbo scored early and often, doing his damage in the first half as he slashed his way to the rim and seemingly grabbed every rebound when there was traffic. He had foul issues in the second half, finally being sent to the bench for good with just over four minutes. He departed with 12 and 11. Another double-double.  I don’t take these for granted. He makes it look easy some nights, but thats because he plays in a gear that is much higher than others.

But it was the other Rams that stepped up in support that field them this night.

Prentiss Nixon had started slow, missing shots and turning the ball over.  At the half he was scoreless. By game’s end, Nixon had exploded for 17 points and 5 assists. Much like Clavell, he had demonstrated his offensive versatility with a variety of perimeter jumpers, hard drives to the basket, and floaters.

But just as important as his scoring, Nixon was reading the Spartan defense as he was probing for offense and many of his assists found center Nico Carvacho who finished strongly at the rim.  San Jose State had decided that any of their help on defense would come off Carvacho and the Rams successfully exploited via Nixon to Carvacho. Nico would finish with 10 points on 4-4 shooting and 8 rebounds, several of which came on the offensive end to extend possessions for the Rams.

JD Paige had a rough night with some sloppy turnovers and poor shooting.  But in the end game, when San Jose was trying to claw back, Paige calmly stepped to the free throw line and made 5-6. He too would finish with 10 points.

Meaning all 5 starters finished in double figures.

All of this play led to a 15-point lead midway through the second half.

Omogbo fouling out gave the Spartans a glimmer of hope and they did their best to get back into the game. To their credit, SJSU did not quit.  They closed the gap to 5 but were not able to really threaten the Rams.

It was not a game where the outcome ever felt in doubt.  Seniors Gian Clavell and Emmanuel Omogbo made sure of that from the opening tip.

The Magnificent Seven is riding again.

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