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The Colorado State men’s basketball team used key runs in second half to earn a 72-61 win over Sacramento State in the 2017-18 season opener for both squads, Nov. 10. The Rams had three players finish in double digits on a night when they led for all but about 30 seconds.

After the visiting Hornets took a 35-34 lead on a three to open the final 20 minutes, CSU went on a 9-0 run, capped by J.D. Paige‘s driving layup, to take the lead for good. The Rams extended the lead to as many as 17 with just under six minutes to go and Sacramento State could get no closer than nine in the closing minutes.

The first half started with a bang, as the Rams scored the first 11 points of the contest in under four minutes. The visitors answered with the next seven points and the remainder of the half was back and forth, with the Hornets grabbing a 26-25 lead with 5:07 remaining. However, CSU would answer quickly and close the half with a two-point advantage.

“So our team is very young, and you could see it,” head coach Larry Eustachy said postgame. “You could see it with our body language. We don’t handle adversity well. It is to be expected, because we are really young…I am not saying we are immature, we are just young. They understand it, the game gets them. There is such a learning curve for this team that when we get right, I think we have a chance.”

CSU struggled some shooting, going just 38.1 percent (24-of-63) from the floor but was outstanding in shutting down Sac State, holding the visitors to just 31.7 percent (19-of-60). Two key differences were the charity stripe, as the Rams were 20-of-25 (80.0 percent) as compared to the Hornets 16-of-22 (72.7 percent), and the boards, as CSU won the battle 48-41, including 28-19 in the second half.

Junior guard Prentiss Nixon led the Rams with 16 points while redshirt-junior J.D. Paige added 15. Junior forward Deion James chipped in 10 points and eight rebounds in his CSU debut, with redshirt-sophomore center Nico Carvacho and senior forward Che Bob grabbing 15 and 10 boards, respectively. Sacramento State was led by forward Justin Strings’ 19 points and 11 rebounds, though the Hornets’ leader was limited to 6-of-22 from the field, including 1-of-7 from the three-point line. Jordan Tolbert also had 19 for Sacramento State.

“I think we are young and we showed it at times tonight. Being up pretty big early and letting it slip away it shows we got a lot of room to grow, but it is game one and I like the direction that this team is going,” Nixon said.