Laramie, Wyo. – The scenario couldn't have been written any better. Six seconds left, down by two and the home team has possession of the ball. More than 7,800 people were in attendance at Arena Auditorium to watch one of the most storied rivalries in the Mountain West Conference. Ram point guard Cory Lewis blocked the last second 3-point try by the Wyoming Cowboys (12-15, 5-9 MWC) and CSU (15-12, 4-10 MWC) walked out of Laramie with an 80-78 win Saturday night.
"I thought there were 20 guys that played their hearts out," said head coach Dale Layer after his first career win in Laramie. "We did everything we could to get that win."
CSU juniors Michael Harrison and Freddy Robinson spoiled "Senior Night" in the win against the 'Pokes. Harrison led the Rams in scoring with a career-best 28 points on 10-for-13 shooting from the field.
"Michael has been playing great for a couple of games now, he was the difference for us tonight," Layer said.
Robinson set the tone by using his emotional play on the defensive end to fight his way to a season-high 18 points on six of eight shooting.
"I go out and play defense. I bring energy and emotion to the defensive side of the ball," said Robinson, who has scored in double-figures four of the last five games.
The Rams were up by seven with one minute left to play, but five missed free throws by CSU and a potential four-point play by Cowboy guard Brandon Ewing left the home team with a chance to win at the end.
Ewing, who scored 12 of his 16 points in the second half, took the last shot for Wyoming after teammate Brad Jones drove the lane and passed the ball out to him in the corner.
"If (Lewis) didn't tip the ball, it was pretty much going in. It was a great defensive play by him," Ewing said.
With sophomore Jason Smith in foul trouble for the majority of the game and eventually fouling-out on a questionable charging call, the Rams turned to junior-college transfer Harrison to pick up the slack.
"I'm a quick big-man. I've got to use that to my advantage," said Harrison.
CSU led for all but five minutes in the 40-minute game. Defensive stops and key shots won the game. Sophomore Stuart Creason had five of the Rams' school record-tying 12 blocks.
It was a physical and emotional night for the Rams, one that produced 49 total fouls and four technical fouls, three by Wyoming and one on CSU's Andrew Patterson in a late game scuffle.
"There was a lot of energy and emotion in this game, that's what makes it fun," said Layer of the Border War. "Give credit to their crowd, they made it hard to make free throws down the stretch."
The game eventually came down to the free throw shooting by both teams. Wyoming shot a dismal 54 percent from the charity stripe, in contrast to the Rams' 66 percent shooting at the line.
"It was simple, we make our free throws, we win the game," said Wyoming head coach Steve McClain.
Sophomore Brad Jones led the Cowboys in scoring with 20 points, but it was the play of freshman Brandon Ewing's 16 points and team-high five assists that nearly captured a comeback win.
Even though the Rams stole the spotlight on "Senior Night," Wyoming's heralded senior Justin Williams did all he could with 11 points, a game-high eight rebounds and five blocks.
"(The rivalry) got the best of me. It was a very emotional night and unfortunately we didn't come out with a win," said a teary-eyed Williams.
CSU now looks to the last week of the regular season with a game in Provo, Utah against BYU on Wednesday and with the conference tournament looming.
"It feels great building momentum going into the tournament. We've improved by leaps and bounds," Harrison said.
With a win Saturday, the Rams move within one game of Wyoming in the conference standings, which may mean the difference in seeding in the new formatted conference tournament. The next Ram home game will be the season finale versus Air Force on Saturday.
"Our confidence is coming back, everyone is on the same page," said point guard Cory Lewis. "We are playing better defense and having fun again."
CSU MIN FG-FGA R TP A B
Robinson 30 6-8 2 18 2 0
Smith 20 3-8 4 9 2 2
Harrison 38 10-13 3 28 2 2
Lewis 24 3-5 4 10 1 1
Gilling 12 1-3 0 3 0 0
Morris, S 17 0-1 1 4 2 0
Patterson 18 2-2 2 5 1 0
Creason 22 2-6 4 4 0 5
Morris, M 20 0-2 4 2 2 2
UW MIN FG-FGA R TP A B
Williams 30 4-7 8 11 3 5
Leven 30 3-12 1 6 3 1
Wabbington 34 7-14 7 14 1 1
Jones 31 8-16 3 20 3 0
Ewing 37 6-11 5 16 5 0
Lewis 18 3-8 3 8 0 0
Anderson 11 0-1 3 0 0 0
Ebert 5 0-2 0 2 0 0
Okoye 3 0-0 0 0 0 0
Songondo 1 0-0 1 1 0 0