Eight is not enough for the CSU Rams.
After winning eight straight home games, the Rams (11-7, 2-2 MWC) couldnâ€™t pull off a ninth and fell to the UNLV Rebels (15-4, 3-2) 80-72 on Wednesday in the process.
CSU stayed close to UNLV the entire game, exchanging leads with the Rebels 16 times, but couldnâ€™t pull ahead when it mattered most.
UNLV center Brice Masssamba hit an easy layup with less than a minute left in the game, giving the Rebels a four point lead. Unable to retaliate, the Rams were forced to foul. UNLV responded by making six of six free throws down the stretch en route to an eight-point win.
CSU head coach Tim Miles said that he was upset his team couldnâ€™t pull the game out in the final minutes.
â€œI felt for a long time tonight we were going to win this thing, and Iâ€™m furious that we didnâ€™t,â€ the third year CSU coach said. â€œI think that our lack of execution and missed free throws gave that game away and itâ€™s infuriating to me.â€
Rams guard Dorian Green agreed with his coach. The freshman, who had a team-high 20 points in the loss, said that this defeat stung a little bit more than others have this season.
â€œWe were there, we just let this one slip away and didnâ€™t manage the game well,â€ Green said. â€œThis one definitely leaves a sour taste in your mouth because we feel like we should have won that game.â€
Forward Travis Franklin scored 17 points and recorded nine rebounds for the Rams, but struggled from the free throw line the entire night. CSU as a team went 16 for 28 from the charity stripe. Of the Rams 12 misses, 11 came from Franklin.
Franklin could not be reached for comment after the game.
CSU guard Adam Nigon blamed the difficult loss on a combination of things but said poor free throw shooting played the biggest role.
â€œOur free throw shooting killed us,â€ he said. â€œWe could have a lead down there at the end if we make our free throws. Weâ€™ve been working hard in practice; late game we just collapsed.â€
With the loss, the Rams now own a two-game losing skid and drop to the middle of the pack in the Mountain West Conference. Unfortunately for the green and gold, things donâ€™t get any easier as the Rams are set to head to New Mexico on Saturday for a showdown with the 17-3 Lobos.
Nigon said that the Rams need to bring more to the court against New Mexico to pick up a much needed win.
â€œItâ€™s going to take a lot more than we had tonight,â€ he said. â€œI feel we have a good team that can compete with them. If we play 40 minutes we have a chance for a win there. We just couldnâ€™t get the stops we needed at the end tonight.â€
Assistant Sports Editor Adam Bohlmeyer can be reached at email@example.com.