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Colorado State 78 – San Diego State 77

January 29, 2017

I rarely write about games that I dont attend. I prefer to rely on my eyes seeing the game live rather than the distortions that come from a TV set.  Big screens help but it sure doesnt quite give you the feel of the speed, the physical play, the effort like seeing a game in person.

But this game in San Diego was different.

The Rams scratched and clawed from a double figure deficit in Viejas Arema to finally score an improbable victory on a Gian Clavell layup with just under 4 seconds remaining. It would be the first Ram victory in San Diego since 2003. That alone is remarkable.

But it was how they did it.

Yes it takes a complete team effort to win a game like this.

But the win was driven by extraordinary efforts by Clavell and Emmanuel Omogbo, the two seniors.  Omogbo would deliver a magnificent performance, scoring 24 (including 4-4 from beyond the arc) and grabbing 9 boards.  Clavell’s performance was…well there’s only one way to describe it.

Magical.

37 points and 8 rebounds.

I searched my memory bank to recall the 37-point games that I had seen in person in my life and came up with two.

The first was way back in 1973 in Durham, NC when I watched Duke senior Gary Melchionni lead his Blue Devils to a close win over the national-ranked and heavily favored Maryland Terrapins who had three first-rounders on their team. Melchionni would score his team’s final 19 points that day, running an offense known as the Mongoose which spread the floor and isolated very much like a Four Corners offense of that master down the road in Chapel Hill.  Melchionni went on to play a couple of years in the NBA as a 2nd round pick of the Phoenix Suns, later became a lawyer, a dad of future Duke player Lee Melchionni. It was a legendary game that I will never forget.

The second 37-point effort came in the 2011-12 season when CSU visited Northern Colorado.  In warmups that day, Dorian Green told his coaches “I’m on fire, I cant miss”.  He wasnt lying. He scored at will over the home team from all over the court. And threw in a pair of four-point plays. The game was most memorable to me because I sat next to his dad Darren Green that evening.  Dorian was an all-time great for CSU and to be able to see it and share it with his dad cemented it in my mind.

I regret not being in Viejas Arena last night to see Gian Clavell.

Because it was obvious, even from watching only on TV, that it was the best 37 point performance I can recall seeing in my lifetime. Better than Gary’s and better than Dorian’s.

Gian Clavell is a unique offensive talent.  I have had the opportunity several times to sit next to NBA scouts during games and the one thing they look for is how well a player can create his own shot.  The NBA game is so different from every other form of basketball and that is driven by a 24-second clock and a wider lane.  Late shot clock opportunites come quicker in the NBA and it is imperative that players create on their own.

Gian Clavell can create on his own.

He has demonstrated that ability since he first set foot in Fort Collins.

But it was different against San Diego State on this day. Because he was defended by SDSU’s Dakarai Allen, arguably the best 94′ defender in the Mountain West Conference.

Clavell would score 30 in the second half and many of them were highlight reel shots. He’s scored some very difficult buckets at CSU but it you were to put togewther a Top 10 list of his Grestest baskets, all 10 of them would have come last night.

Allen was draped all over him as he scored on high-arching turnaround jumpers from the baseline, spinning reverse layups, pull up jumpers off the bounce, three-balls from deep. 

He scored an And-1 that will be his best basket ever at CSU where he look off from the left block and somehow found a way while getting fouled to spin the ball off of the glass from the right side of the bucket.  There arent many players that could have made that shot against air. Gian did it splitting three defenders and with contact.

That may have been his best, but his most memorable will be the final play that led to the winning basket.

San Diego State had taken the lead on a pair of free throws by Trey Kell with 10 seconds remaining. Everybody in ther gym and everybody watching on TV knew that Gian Clavell would get the ball. He caught it running right in front of the San Diego State bench and began to weave his way at speed up the court.  He would basically weave his way through all five Aztecs who were on the floor before launching a high arcing shot from the edge of the paint.

It was an amazing effort just to get something up near the rim. It was sublime when the shot, guided by strings from heaven, fell through the net.

San Diego got a shot up at the buzzer that fell harmlessly off the rim and the Rams had their victory.

And Gian Clavell had delivered a game for the ages.

He and fellow senior Emmanuel Omogbo had scored 61 of the Rams points.

More importantly, the two seniors played as leaders. In the end, they had elevated their Magnificent Seven teammates and scored a famous victory for themselves and for their fans.

One more thought…

After the game, legendary SDSU coach Steve Fisher was very emotional in his post-game press conference.  He talked about what a great Division 1 college basketball game had just taken place. About how both teams had played hard for 40 minutes. And about how much it hurt for his team to come up one play short and finish on the wrong side of the scoreboard.

Fisher has always been a thoughtful and introspective coach and it was he that put the proper perspective on the game.  And then he cemented his stature as the Dean of MWC Coaches when he boarded the CSU bus after the game to congratulate the Rams.  He was hurting for his team having to experience such a tough loss but he still had the presence to share his love for the game and for what he had just witnessed from his bench as CSU’s opponent. I dont need to know the words he said. Knowing the man, it was a heartfelt congratulations not just for the win but for honoring the game he loves with a passionate 40 minute effort.

Regardless of how this season ends, that will be the legacy of this year’s CSU squad. 

Our Magnificent Seven.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. Mark Zaremba permalink
    January 29, 2017 5:02 pm

    Your best review ever IMHO

  2. Dennis Gurling permalink
    January 29, 2017 6:07 pm

    I was at the game and although I root for SDSU I felt privileged to witness such a great game and incredible performance by Clavell.
    Hats off to him and Omogbu.

    • January 29, 2017 6:08 pm

      Thanks for sharing. When you’re a hoops fan, its fun to see players who find that zone regardless of who they play for.

  3. Joseph Yavitch permalink
    January 29, 2017 7:16 pm

    I echo Dennis Gurling’s comments. I’m a long time Aztec Season Ticket holder, The intensity of both sides and the magical play of #3, Clavell with a huge assist from Omogbo, WoW!, what a game. There was also that bank shot, which from where I sit, was clearly off the mark, then Bank and In. What a performance. Truly privli
    dged to have been there and witnessed that performance. In the end, it’s what I love about College Basketball in particular and College Sports in general.

    • February 1, 2017 12:11 am

      Thanks for your comments. Its always fun to hear the perspective of those that saw it live. Way better than anything that the TV shows.

  4. Joel C. permalink
    January 31, 2017 6:13 pm

    Swoll….great writeup and perspective as always. Thank you!

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