Mar 072002

C’mon, how did you think it was going to end?

TheA/CSU men’s basketball team stayed true toA/its season form in Las Vegas, keeping it tight but eventually getting edged by the University of Utah, 69-66. The lossA/eliminated the RamsA/from the Mountain West Conference tournament and ending their season.

The heartbreaking end was a familiar sight for the Rams. Eleven of their 18 losses have been by nine points or less.

This is a game that, for all intents and purposes, the Rams should have won.

The Rams led most of the first half, even though top scorers Andy Birley and Brian Greene got into early foul trouble, and trailed only 30-29 at the half.

The Rams were identical to Utah from the field, but they were better from the free throw line and they out rebounded the Utes as well.

However, the Rams were unable to contain Utah from 3-point land.

A/The Rams on the other hand were cold from outside the arc, nailing only 3 of 14A/attempts in the game.

The Rams also had a tough time stopping senior Jeff Johnson, who scored 23 points in the contest, including two spectacular dunks in the first half.

Freshman Matt Nelson continued his stellar play, scoring 25 points and grabbing eight rebounds. Greene netted 13 points, extending his double digit-scoring streak to 26 games. But in the end, the Rams couldn’t overcome their lack of perimeter shooting.

The Rams played tough, clawing their way back from a 9-point deficit with eight minutes to go and cutting it to one on Birley’s 3-pointer with just over a minute left.

After two free throws a piece by Johnsen and Ute point guard Travis Spivey, freshman Jon Rakiecki nailed a 3-pointer to make it 68-66 with 17 seconds left.

Johnsen hit one more free throw, making it 69-66 with 4.3 seconds left, but Birley’s 3-pointer from 25 feet with no time remaining on the clock bounced off theA/iron,A/giving the Rams their third loss against Utah this season.

“I thought it was good,” said Birley, who scored onlyA/five pointsA/in the contest. “It’s frustrating not to be able to get any open looks, but I had a good look at that though and I just couldn’t hit it.”

CSU head coach Dale Layer said he was proud of the team.

“I’ve said it before, I know,” Layer said. “But these guys don’t have an ounce of quit in them. I couldn’t be prouder of them.” n

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