Last-second loss in Laramie

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Feb 232003
 
Authors: Jason Graziadei

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LARAMIE, Wyo. – The Rams caught a bad case of deja vu.

In round two of the Border War with Wyoming, the CSU men’s basketball team lost 62-60 in another last-second heartbreaker Saturday night in Laramie. And worse, the game had an ending almost identical to the first game this season between the conference rivals.

With the score tied at 60, the Rams had a chance to take the lead with 30 seconds left in the game. But just like the first Border War this season, they turned the ball over without taking a shot.

On Wyoming’s ensuing possession, sophomore guard Jay Straight air-balled a jumper, but the ball fell into the hands of the Cowboy’s Uche Nsonwu-Amadi, who made the easy lay-up to win the game.

“If you coach long enough, you know it’s not always the first shot that’s going to beat you, it’s the second shot,” Wyoming head coach Steve McClain said. “It’s all about winning. You can dissect the stats all you want, but who won? That’s all that matters. I give Dale and his kids credit; they came in here and fought their tails off. Every game we have with them is like this.”

The Rams (14-11 overall, 3-7 Mountain West) put themselves in a hole to start the game and trailed by as much as 15 points in the first half. However, they were able to overcome a 12-point deficit in the second half, and after trailing the entire game, finally took a one-point lead with two minutes left.

But the last-second shot by Nsonwu-Amadi gave the Cowboy’s their seventh straight victory over CSU dating back to 2000, and also handed the Rams their sixth consecutive loss.

“The effort was there tonight, it was just a matter of executing down the stretch,” Rams’ guard Andy Birley said. “We were executing the whole game, but we just came up short. We really feel like we can beat anyone on any given night in this league. It’s just a matter of putting in 40 minutes.”

Despite the fact the Rams had more rebounds, steals and blocks, and also shot the ball better than the Cowboys, they still could not find a way to get a bucket when they needed it. And despite a solid defensive effort on Wyoming’s last possession, they couldn’t get their hands on Straight’s air-ball.

“Whenever we play CSU, it’s always a battle,” Nsonwu-Amadi said. “Especially with me and (Matt) Nelson.”

Nsonwu-Amadi, Wyoming’s center from Nigeria, and Nelson battled each other in the post throughout the game. While Nsonwu-Amadi finished with 17 points and five rebounds, Nelson had a game-high 24 points and six rebounds.

“It’s always fun going against him,” Nelson said of Nsonwu-Amadi. “He’s a big, physical guy and we were battling down low the whole game. We respect each other, but during the game we just want to win it for our team. It’s kind of like deja vu. What are you gonna do?”

The Rams held the defending MWC champions to 40 percent from the field, but the Cowboys hit nine of 15 three-pointers, which devastated CSU at several points in the game.

Although they were disappointed with the outcome, some of the Rams’ players took solace in the fact they were able to come back from a large deficit against one of the premier teams in the conference.

“I felt that if we had played 40 minutes we would’ve beat them,” said Rams’ forward Brian Greene, who took only five shots in the game, but connected on four, including the shot that gave the Rams their only lead. “If you don’t play the first 10 minutes, you can’t beat a good team like that at home. But I was proud of the way we came back and tied it up. We had a chance to win the game and just couldn’t pull it through.”

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