Fort Collins, CO – Colorado State was seeking to build on its 36th ranking in the NCAA RPI, (2nd in the Mountain West) against San Diego State (#21 in RPI). The Rams 17-2 record is an all-time best through 19 games in program history. They were one of the last “unbeaten” teams this season with 14 consecutive wins to open the season. Entering Saturday’s games, CSU has two players in senior forwards J.J. Avila and Stanton Kidd that rank in the top-20 in the MWC for both scoring and rebounding.
The San Diego State Aztecs were selected first in the MWC preseason poll, and entered Saturday’s game tied for first with a 5-1 conference record. Overall, San Diego State is 15-4. The Aztecs leaders are double-digit scorers with forward Winston Shepard (Jr.) at 11.0 ppg and a pre-season all-MWC selection, and senior guard Aqeel Quinn (10.7 ppg). (Note • The Aztecs are playing without preseason all-MWC selection Dwayne Polee II, who has missed seven consecutive games since collapsing vs. UC Riverside on Dec. 22.) SDSU leads the MWC in scoring defense at 52.6 points allowed per game (third nationally).
The Rams jumped to an early 17 point lead (27-10) by shooting a torrid 63 percent from the field and 8-of-11 behind the arc, but San Diego State fought back with several different full-court defenses. They made an effort to get the ball into the paint on offense and reeled off 14 consecutive points. By halftime it was still anyone’s game with a CSU lead at 40-32 as they cooled down to 42 percent shooting by then.
The entertaining second half became a shoot-out for Colorado State’s J.J. Avila vs. Malik Pope (6’10, freshman) for SDSU. Avila scored a season-high 29 points on 12-of-16 shooting with two 3’s, and four rebounds to go with two steals. Pope’s previous high game was nine points, but tonight the freshman scored 22 points on 9-of-11 field goals and a stellar 4-of-4 from behind the line. He was also the leading rebounder in the game with seven boards. But it was not enough as the Ram’s Avila hit a driving shot with 18 seconds remaining to put CSU up 77-73 as they finished with a 79-73 victory.
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