In the first half of Tuesday’s BCA Tournament Championship in Moby Arena, the CSU men’s basketball team resembled the squad of a year ago. But luckily for the Rams, it was a tale of two halves, and after a sloppy first half, CSU put together a dominating performance in the second half en route to a 77-63 win and the BCA Tournament Championship.
The Rams were plagued with nine turnovers, shot only 35 percent from the field, and trailed 30-28 after the first half. But after a spirited halftime pep talk, CSU came out firing on all cylinders with seniors Andy Birley and Brian Greene leading the way.
Birley connected on three three-pointers to get the Rams going, while Greene simply took over after that, scoring 18 of his game-high 28 points as CSU jumped out to a double-digit lead.
“They got us into an offensive lull in the first half, but we talked a lot at halftime time and we just had to turn the tempo up offensively and defensively,” said Rams head coach Dale Layer. “Andy Birley struggled a little bit in the first half and I said ‘Andy, you’ve got to shoot it,’ and he came out and had a terrific hot hand to start the second half to get us going.”
Birley, who finished with 18 points and three assists, was named to the All-Tournament team while Greene was honored with the Tournament MVP award. The win also kept CSU undefeated on the season at 3-0.
The big spark for the Rams, however, didn’t come from Greene or Birley. The play that got the 2,565 fans at Moby out of their seats was a spectacular dunk by freshman Michael Morris with 10 minutes left in the game. The jam put the Rams up 55-40, and added an exclamation point to Morris’ night, in which he had 10 points, four assists, two blocks and a steal.
“We knew we came out flat in the first half and we really didn’t play very well, so we just got on each other at halftime, pumping each other up,” Greene said. “I started hitting some shots and Andy (Birley) got hot. Our team’s so much deeper than we were last year and we can do a lot more things. All three games this tournament we proved we were the better team in the second half”
The Rams trailed by as much as nine points early in the game, but managed to pull within two by halftime. The second half saw CSU shoot nearly 57 percent from the field, commit only three turnovers, connect on four of five three-pointers and make 11 of 15 free throws. More importantly, the Rams defense stifled the Viking’s attack with constant pressure and relentless defensive rebounding.
“We didn’t match their intensity in the first half and we let that zone take us out of our game,” Birley said. “The second half we came out and attacked the zone and I think that helped us bring up our intensity on defense so we could attack them all around. I was able to get some open looks and fortunately was able to knock them down.”
After playing three games in four nights during the tournament, the Rams will get some well-deserved time off before taking on Texas A&M-Kingsville next Monday at 7 p.m. in Moby Arena.