The 211th Border War between Wyoming and Colorado State lived up to its reputation Wednesday night at Moby Arena, as the Cowboys were able to overcome a hostile crowd to top the Rams 82-79.
With 8.1 seconds remaining in regulation, the Rams had the basketball and a three point deficit to overcome. With no timeouts remaining, CSU had to improvise their final play off the inbound, following two clutch free throws by Wyoming’s Brandon Ewing.
CSU’s Harvey Perry and Marcus Walker brought the ball up the floor with minimal pressure, but once the Rams hit midcourt, that’s when the trouble began. Senior point guard Willis Gardner took a forced three-pointer that missed badly off the iron, ending the Rams hopes for overtime.
Gardner finished the game with 15 points, but his inability to hit free throws down the stretch resulted in the Rams’ demise.
“That’s just the way it goes sometimes,” said Gardner, who was 5-10 from the line Wednesday. “I missed some key free throws down the stretch, and I missed the shot to send it to overtime. It just didn’t go in tonight.”
It wasn’t only Gardner who struggled from the charity stripe, CSU (9-19, 4-10 MWC) shot only 59.3 percent (16-27) against the Pokes, compared to 75 percent for Wyoming.
“We just beat ourselves tonight,” CSU head coach Tim Miles said. “When you don’t make free throws it makes it hard to win, which raises the question, ‘are we shooting enough in practice?'”
The two Cowboys who did the most damage were Ewing, who scored a game-high 21 points, and redshirt freshman Afam Muojeke who exploded for 19 points and was arguably the Border War’s most valuable player.
Even though this was only Muojeke’s second time playing CSU, Brandon Ewing felt like the freshman, who is a native of Jamaica Queens, New York, did a good job of taking the game into his hands.
“Afam has been making big plays,” Ewings said. “He may not know so much about college rivalries, but he knows about rivalries on the streets of New York City. He did a really good job tonight.”
Ewing was then asked about his antics following the game when he waved to the crowd of 5,556. According to him, he was just saying goodbye.
“Oh yea, this was my last goodbye, my last time in Moby. I don’t think I’ll ever play in this gym again. Probably won’t even be in Fort Collins again unless I’m shopping or something.”
While Ewing claims he was just “saying goodbye,” CSU senior guard Marcus Walker took offense.
“A loss is a loss, but they were celebrating like this was some huge win and us and them are in the same boat,” Walker said. “I mean sure it’s a rivalry, but still. Everyone in the locker room is mad, I’m mad, but I just gotta go home and forget about it in the morning.”
Men’s basketball beat writer Matt L. Stephens can be reached at email@example.com.