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Late first half, early second half rally dooms Grizzlies

Posted: Wednesday, Jan 2nd, 2013

Norvell Arnold (4), who was ejected in the second half after a foul against Pierce Hornung (4), drives toward the net en route to two of his seven points on the day. Courier Photo by Eric R. Flores

Courier Sports Editor

FORT COLLINS—A 17-2 spurt over the final five minutes of the first half followed by another 15-2 run over the first four minutes of the second half was just too much explosiveness for the Adams State University Grizzlies defense to keep pace with as they suffered their first loss of the season, 80-55, to the NCAA Division I Colorado State University Rams, Saturday afternoon here in Moby Arena.

Adams State played a stellar first 15 minutes of the first half by keeping pace with each bucket that the Rams threw up before falling behind 24-16. Two quick buckets by the Grizzlies made it just a 4-point game, 24-20 before the 32-4 spurt helped the Rams win their 20th straight home win, the fourth longest active streak in the nation. CSU, which advanced to last year's NCAA Tournament, is now 11-2 this year and has won five straight overall, each by at least 15 points, the first time the program has done that since 1970.

Last week the Rams defeated fellow Division II team Virginia Tech, 88-52, to win the Las Vegas Classic Championship. The Rams are also receiving a vote in the USA Today Coaches' Poll.

Meanwhile, the Grizzlies, receiving votes in the latest NABC (National Association of Basketball Coaches)/NCAA Division II Poll, fell to 7-1 as they suffered their first loss of the campaign despite a career-high 17 points from John Jackson, who got the start in the ASU's first post-Christmas contest of the campaign.

Jackson scored the Grizzlies' first seven points and helped ASU take a 5-3 lead forcing veteran coach Larry Eustachy, in his first year at CSU, to call timeout less than a minute. The Rams then went on a 5-0 run including a 3-pointer on the ensuing possession to take an 8-5 lead before Jackson's third bucket cut the deficit to a single point. The Rams would not trail again in the game.

The Grizzlies remained composed and trailed by just four (15-11) at the mid-point of the first half. The Rams then built a 22-13 lead before a 7-2 Grizzly spurt helped the visitors close the gap to just 24-20 on a James Lake 3-pointer with 5:37 left.

Those were Lake's only three points on his afternoon, limited to just seven injury-plagued minutes.

The Rams then went on their extended run and led 41-22 at the half before building the lead to as many as 30 (56-26) before the first media timeout of the second half.

The Grizzlies then trailed by that same 30-point margin before an 8-0 ASU run in the second half helped close the final deficit.

“I thought they got some back-breaking plays in the middle of the game when we were down by just a few buckets in the first half,” Adams State Head Coach Louis Wilson said. “They guard at such a hard level. They were able to get stops and able to use their defense to create offense.”

The Rams finished the day shooting just under 50 percent (48.3, 29-60) and had four starters finish in double-figures. Touted Colton Iverson and Dorian Green each finished with 17 as they went a combined 12-for-21 from the field. Meanwhile Wes Eikmeier and Greg Smith scored 11 each. The Rams, who were attempting to flex their Division I muscles and show off, missed five slam dunk opportunities and two breakaway lay-up attempts.

Jackson, who was 7-for-14 from the field, was the only Grizzly in double-figures although Kaimyn Pruitt and Tyler McDaniels each finished with nine points. Pruitt also had 10 rebounds falling just a point shy of his sixth straight double-double. McDaniels, who matched his career-high for scoring, also hit his first two 3-pointers of the season.

With the big lead, and the Rams applying their pressure late in the second half, a visibly frustrated Grizzly team committed an apparent foul resulting in the ejection of senior center Vinny Novaes. An official replay by the referees showed Novaes elbowing last week’s Mountain West Player of the Week, Pierce Hornung in the head as the two players ran down the court. Novaes was assessed with a flagrant 2 foul, and was ejected from the game.

“It is just basketball,” Hornung said of the incident. Hornung finished the game with seven points and eight rebounds, while freshman guard Jon Octeus paced the team with a career-high nine rebounds. Six separate Rams grabbed at least six rebounds, leading CSU to 51 rebounds as a team. It was the first time that Colorado State has tallied at least 50 rebounds in a game, since it hosted Fairfield in the first round of the NIT in March of 2011.

The Rams dominated the game inside, outscoring the Grizzlies 36-16 in the paint and 14-4 off of turnovers.

The Grizzlies were held to just 29 percent (20-69) shooting from the field but did make an impressive nine 3-pointers while shooting 33.3 percent (9-27) from beyond the arc.

ASU, which had not played since Dec. 17, will now take a few more days off before resuming Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference play and starting 2013 on Friday (Jan. 4) at Black Hills State in Spearfish, S.D. The Grizzlies are 5-0 in RMAC play and are tied for the conference lead with Metro State, which fell by 20 points (87-67) to CSU in an exhibition game in October.

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