On Saturday morning, when the undefeated Colorado Buffaloes came to town, not many believed the 3-4 Colorado State Rams would win the contest.

But that’s exactly what the Rams did; they played Larry Eustachy’s brand of basketball, with high energy and effort on the defensive end, by dominating the glass to defeat the pesky Buffs 72-63. It was the first time in five years the home team won in the series, and as far as this season is concerned, it was a key victory at just the right time.

“This game was big for us,” redshirt junior J.D. Paige said after the win. “We had just come off a loss, so we were trying to get back on track. We did that tonight.”

Paige was right, a loss to the Buffs and the Rams would’ve fallen to 3-5 on the season with two incredibly difficult road games up next, against Arkansas (5-2) tomorrow and then flying to Eugene, Oregon to face the Ducks (5-3) who just lost at home for the first time in nearly two years. A loss to CU and the Rams could’ve been looking at a 3-7 record this time next week.

Instead, at 4-4, the Rams have righted the ship at the perfect time.

It wasn’t just that Colorado State defeated Colorado — a young and deep team which will be very good next year — it was that the Rams won Larry’s way.

From the tip, CSU was the more energetic squad, fighting for rebounds, loose balls and blocks. Nico Carvacho, the redshirt sophomore and Rams most important big man, played his heart out, with nine boards and a career-high four blocked shots. He was the presence down low Colorado State needs on a consistent basis to win not only this year, but next year as well.

It wasn’t just Carvacho, though, Deion James grabbed a team-high 10 rebounds and the Rams out-rebounded the Buffs 46-32 in the game. That’s Eustachy’s brand of basketball.

“I’m really proud of our guys. I’m really happy with our guys,” Eustachy said after the win. “I understand how important these games are to our fans, and to guys like J.D. [Paige]. This team is so cooperative, they really are. And resilient.”

Eustachy calling his team cooperative is a change of tune from earlier in the year, when he said after the comeback win over Winthrop, “I voiced my concerns about doing a better job of listening. Sure enough, we weren’t ready to play.”

At least for the game against the Buffs, the Rams listened to coaching. Not just on defense — where the JUCO guys are figuring out just how much effort is needed at this level — but on offense, too.

It was clear in the first half Eustachy’s team was making a concerted effort to get the ball inside and post-up CU’s interior defenders. The Buffs were without senior center Troy Miller-Stewart, but it was a planned effort which has taken nearly a month to drill into the players’ heads.

That’s partially Eustachy’s fault for allowing the “do-what-you-want” offense, and then deciding they’re settling for too many outside shots. But, as easy as jumpers are to take, the Rams must be given credit for listening to coaching and working the ball inside for better shot attempts as well as drawing fouls against CU.

“We do have it figured out,” Larry “Legend” said after the game of shot selection. “Need to get the ball down low to Nico and Deion. Particularly Deion. We don’t need to settle for jump shots.

“Deion’s been badgered hard lately,” Eustachy said of getting James to play with physicality down low. “It happened in the Northwestern State game. I told Deion, ‘I don’t want you taking an outside shot.”…[Tonight] He only took shots around the basket. I’ve had players for four years who wouldn’t do anything I told him to do. This guy does it at halftime.”

After the victory, junior leader and point guard Prentiss Nixon called it the Rams most complete game of the year.

“It was definitely our most complete game of the year,” said Nixon, who led the team in scoring with 16.

That it was. They not only won on the glass by 14, Colorado State shot a higher percentage than their opponents with better shot selection, and the Rams’ nine blocks were the most on the season by far.

This was the kind of effort the Rams must have going forward if they want to hang with Arkansas and/or Oregon this week. Simply, CSU has been terrible away from Moby Arena this season, at 0-4, losing by an average of 16.8 points per game.

But, now that they’ve played this way once, Larry’s got to keep pointing to it as the effort which set the standard. The win over Colorado wasn’t just a feel-good rivalry victory, it wasn’t just important to fans for bragging rights, it was a benchmark win, a game the team can look back on when they’re not playing “the right way” as Larry says.

“Our team knows how they have to play,” Eustachy said after the win of the team letting CU come back late in the second half. “When they got away from it, they let a 17-point lead get away from them. So, we have a lot of room for growth.”

From the first practice of the year, Eustachy has said the future of CSU hoops is bright, specifically next year.

“I’ve always told you guys we’re a year away, but let’s just enjoy this one,” he said Saturday afternoon.

He’s not wrong; the Rams only have one senior this year in Che Bob and will have multiple next year, as well as an entire roster who’s been battle tested over the course of a season.

But, this year’s still young. Only eight games in, the Rams have found their identity much sooner than they did last year, when Eustachy was forced to play only seven men due to three players being declared academically ineligible. In the game against CU, he intentionally cut the bench down and played only seven; it was a magnificent result.

“We could’ve been 2-5 going into this game the way we beat Winthrop,” Eustachy said of the 14-point, second half comeback earlier in the year. “So, to be 4-4 and top off this 8-game run, I feel like Custer going into the last stand next week. ‘Let’s go guys.’ (Chuckles) And we jump right off a cliff.

“To be 4-4, to win a game that we all know is the most important non-conference game of the season, was cool,” the coach said.

How can Colorado State knock off the tough Arkansas Razorbacks of the SEC? “We’re going to come back against Arkansas and put an even better 40 minutes together,” Nixon said Saturday. “This is a stepping stone for next game.”

WATCH: Recap of the Rams win with Rich Kurtzman and Mat Smith here.