A shorthanded Colorado State Ram men’s basketball team started off slow before pulling away from the Regis Rangers to win 69-53 Tuesday night at Moby Arena.
Playing without forward Jason Smith, an all-Mountian West Conference performer last year, and guard Tyler Smith, a highly touted junior college transfer, the Rams struggled, but were led by guard Corey Lewis, who scored 11 of the Rams’ 29 points in the first half, and finished the game with 17 points and seven assists.
Sophomore guard Stephan Gilling also stepped up in the second half to tie Lewis for the scoring lead in the game with 17 points, all coming in the second half.
Coach Dale Layer said Gilling and Lewis helped level out the young team.
“Stephan (Gilling) had the hot hand, and Cory’s stellar play helped us pull away and keep us in control of the game,” Layer said after the game.
Despite the Rams early troubles, they never trailed. Their up-tempo style on offense and defense kept the Rangers off-balance, but turnovers and missed shots early by the Rams allowed Regis to stay close.
Despite Lewis scoring half of the Rams’ first 22 points, he claims he didn’t feel any pressure to step up his scoring.
“I felt great. I didn’t need to push it, I just let it come to me, and I was hitting everything.” he said. “Jason (Smith) and Tyler (Smith) are going to be a huge part of our offense. We had to step up and get it done.”
Coach Layer was pleased to get to see so many of his younger players get into a game to gain experience, especially freshman Ronnie Aguilar and Jarrel Smith, along with transfer Alton Robinson.
“Alton Robinson had great energy and showed flashes of brilliance. With his length he was important on the glass and the press. Ronnie (Aguilar) and Jarrel (Smith) were two guys without one minute of college ball (who started),” he said.
Senior Brandon Butler led Regis with 16 points, while fellow senior Nick Winder chipped in 11 points. Geremy Gibson added nine, six of those on powerful dunks.
The Rams are in action again on Friday against Concordia-Montreal in their last exhibition game of the season set for 5:05 p.m. at Moby Arena.
Basketball beat writer Matt Pucak can be reached at email@example.com.