A 15-point lead late in the second half was too much to overcome Saturday night as the Rams' comeback attempt fell short at the hands of visiting San Diego State.
CSU played a tight first half, only to let their opponent jump out to a big lead in the second half before putting a run together.
Junior guard Cory Lewis scored 18 of his career-high 26 points in the last 10 minutes of the game to lead a valiant effort by the Rams, only to come up short to the conference leading Aztecs 85-81.
"We're getting better," head coach Dale Layer said following the game. "We have some fight in our team, but they just responded to every run we had."
The Aztecs were led by their pre-season All-Conference guard Brandon Heath, who went 10-of-13 from the field, with a game-high 28 points. He was aided by the Aztecs' other pre-season All-Conference selection, Marcus Slaughter, who recorded his 10th double-double of the season – 22nd of his career – with 25 points and 11 rebounds.
"They have some terrific talent, (Brandon) Heath and (Marcus) Slaughter are great players," Layer said.
Following Lewis' 26 points, the Rams were paced by sophomore forward Jason Smith who had 16 points and six rebounds and junior Michael Harrison who added 12 points.
The Rams started the game off on the right foot as they scored on their first five possessions, highlighted by sophomore guard Sean Morris' acrobatic 3-point basket from the corner with one second left on the shot clock.
"I just let the game come to me," Heath said following the win. "I got a lot of open looks thanks to my team. It was a hard-fought victory."
Coming out of halftime down 45-39, the Rams knew they had to change something. Senior forward Freddy Robinson started the second half and played tough defense in the first four minutes, which helped the Rams create four turnovers and tie the game at 45-45.
"I thought that our defense played well tonight," Layer said. "Freddy (Robinson) stepped it up and was a huge presence for us. He gave us a little momentum in the second half."
The Aztecs then proceeded to go on a 17-6 run, which helped SDSU build their lead of 15. After Harrison fouled out with less than six minutes to play, the Rams had to regroup.
That's when Lewis exploded.
"Cory (Lewis) played a terrific game, they allowed him to get at the rim and he did," Layer said. "He gave us a huge lift."
"We had a hard time stopping him. He made baskets and created a lot of offense. He was sensational," Fisher said of Lewis.
The Aztecs now move to 15-6 and 8-1 in the Mountain West Conference, and break a two-game losing streak in Moby.
"This is a nice gym to play in," Slaughter said after the game. "CSU has a lot of fight, their record doesn't show it but they do."
The Rams (12-10, 1-8 in conference) now look to take on the University of New Mexico and will attempt to halt their current six-game losing streak.
"If we keep moving ahead good things will happen," Layer said.
NAME, FGM-FGA PTS REBOUNDS MINUTES
CSU- Smith, 7-15 16 6 35; Harrison, 5-8 12 1 23; Lewis, 9-15 26 3 34; Morris M, 1-1 2 0 18; Gilling, 2-2 5 0 19; Morris S, 2-6 8 0 15; Harris, 0-2 0 1 6; Robinson, 2-6 4 8 19; Patterson, 0-0 0 2 11; Creason, 2-2 8 3 20. SDSU- Abukar, 6-11 13 4 33; Slaughter, 8-11 25 11 38; Heath, 10-13 28 2 40; Williams, 1-3 2 1 22; Thomas, 2-3 4 1 25; Sharper, 3-6 11 2 33; Davis, 0-0 2 0 7; Camara, 0-0 0 0 2.