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In the opening round of the National Invitation Tournament, the No. 4 seed Colorado State held off a pesky No. 5 Charleston for an 81-74 victory at Moby Arena, March 14. In picking up the program’s 11th postseason win in history, the Rams improved their overall record to 24-11 on the year, while the Cougars ended their year at 25-10.

The teams exchanged baskets in the early part of the game, with the visitors holding a one-point lead at 30-29 with 5:29 left in the first half. From there, the Rams closed the half on a 13-3 run and entered the halftime break with a 42-33 advantage.

CSU started out the second half with effective offense and rebounding, pushing the lead to as many as 16 at 60-44 with 12:55 to play in the game. However, Charleston kept chipping away over the next seven minutes, getting the lead down to three at 72-69 with 5:21 remaining. The Rams made plays down stretch, including six straight points by senior guard Gian Clavell in the final two minutes, to seal the victory.

“Whatever my team needs me to do,” Clavell said about his second-half performance. “Today I started to play-make a lot first, and whatever they needed me to do, that’s my job as a senior and as a leader of this team.”

Colorado State shot 44.4 percent (28-of-63) from the field for the game, including 33.3 percent (10-of-30) from the three-point arc. Charleston connected on 42.4 percent (28-of-66) from the floor but just 29.7 percent (11-of-37) beyond the three-point line. The Rams were 15-of-21 from the free throw line and won the battle of the boards, 39-36. CSU also took advantage of 11 Charleston turnovers and scored 19 points. 

Clavell scored 22 points and added nine rebounds, a career-high tying seven assists and four steals. Sophomore guard Prentiss Nixon scored 19 points, while redshirt-sophomore J.D. Paige chipped in 15 points, including 3-of-5 on three pointers. Senior forward Emmanuel Omogbo had 12 points and seven rebounds. Charleston had five players in double figures, led by Joe Chealey with 16 points while Cameron Johnson and Grant Riller added 15 each.

Featured Image Credit: CSU Rams