Despite it being only the 13th game of Colorado State men’s basketball’s young season, the Rams dubbed Wednesday’s game against the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels a “must win.”
Early on it looked as if Colorado State (9-5, 1-0 MW) was going to drop their fourth straight, but behind a big second half from senior forward Emmanuel Omogbo and redshirt senior guard Gian Clavell the Rams were able to stop their three-game skid and start Mountain West play on the right foot with a 91-77 win over the Rebels (7-7, 0-1 MW).
“We lost three straight,” Omogbo said following the win. “Our back was against the wall, and we had to come in and get a win. This was a must-win game.”
The Rams had a tough time on both ends of the court throughout the first 15 minutes of Wednesday night’s Mountain West opener. UNLV scored 40 of their 43 first-half points in that span. The Rams also had a tough time settling in on offense, sinking just two of their first 10 shots from the floor.
The entire dynamic of the game flipped, though, with 2:57 left in the half. Sparked by two Gian Clavell free throws, an Emmanuel Omogbo 3-pointer and a number of steals in between, the Rams went on a 10-0 run to end the half with a 46-43 lead.
“I thought our intensity defensively picked up,” head coach Larry Eustachy said of the first half run that changed the game. “I thought when we adjusted to going over screens instead of under, it picked up the intensity.”
Feeding off the first half run, the Rams didn’t skip a beat when they stepped on the floor out of the break.
Omogbo got the scoring stated with a quick two, but Clavell set the tone early in the half. With a 48-46 lead just under two minutes into the second half, Clavell drained three 3-pointers in a row to give the Rams an 11-point lead, their largest of the evening to that point.
Those three treys were exactly what the Rams and Calvell, who was playing in his fifth game since being cleared by the university to return to athletic activities following his November arrest, needed to get their season back on track.
“I just played within the game,” Clavell said of his 21-point performance. “I wasn’t trying to force anything.”
Clavell’s 21 points led all scorers and were the most he has scored since returning from his suspension. He also added 11 rebounds to give him his first double-double of the season.
Emmanuel Omogbo brought his season double-double count up to six with his 15-point, 13-rebound performance. Omogbo, who is currently 13th in the nation in total rebounds with 137, stressed how important rebounds were to the Rams’ success.
“One of the reasons we weren’t playing good is teams [were] out-rebounding us,” Omogbo said. “The last three games we lost, we lost the rebounding battle.”
The Rams continue their journey through the Mountain West on Saturday as they head to Boise State to take on the Broncos at 4 p.m. MT.