There is no longer any margin for error.
In a physical, foul plagued game the CSU menâ€™s basketball team could not overcome poor rebounding and 30 personal fouls on the road, falling 84-76 to the No. 7 Brigham Young Cougars.
The Rams (18-9, 8-5 MWC) scratched and clawed their way back to within six points with 5:35 left in the game after trailing by as many as 14 points. However, they never got any closer.
â€œI want to commend our guys. Their effort was really good,â€ CSU coach Tim Miles said. â€œThey battled their tails off and frustrated BYU.â€
Senior forward Andy Ogide played yet another strong offensive game with 25 points and 9 rebounds, despite being hampered by foul trouble most of the second half.
Ogide picked up his fourth foul three minutes and six seconds into the second half and did not return until the nine minute mark.
â€œIâ€™m very frustrated (with sitting in the second half). I didnâ€™t really help my team,â€ Ogide said. â€œBut we fought the whole game to give ourselves a chance at the end.â€
CSU was outrebounded nearly two to one, 43-24, giving BYU extra opportunities.
â€œIt was just one of those nights where we just didnâ€™t come up with loose balls,â€ Ogide said.
The Ramsâ€™ defensive effort was elevated, intent to make it as tough as possible for the Cougars in front of more than 22,000 rambunctious fans at the Marriott Center.
BYU (26-2, 12-1 MWC) committed 20 turnovers on the night compared to 12 assists and were held to 40 percent shooting from the field.
The nationâ€™s top scorer, Jimmer Fredette, had another high scoring game finishing with 34 points, 5 rebounds and shooting 14-of-16 from the free throw line.
Fredette encountered an onslaught of Ram defenders attempting to wear down the guard, which did see some success forcing Fredette to turn the ball over eight times.
â€œI thought we did a nice job on Jimmer, I mean he took 26 shots,â€ Miles said. â€œIf Ogide would have shot it as many times as (Fredette) did, he would have had 50.â€
Fouls sent the Cougars to the charity stripe 43 times accounting for 35 of BYUâ€™s points as a result of the aggressive style of defense.
CSU got contributions from Adam Nigon (14 points), Greg Smith (11 points) and Dwight Smith (7 points).
Dropping two close games against one of the countryâ€™s best teams has been difficult to deal with.
â€œItâ€™s tough because we were right there and had our chances and let it slip through our fingers yet again,â€ Ogide said.
A victory over a top-5 Rating Percentage Index team was critical to the chances of the Rams receiving an NCAA tournament berth for the first time since 2003. CSU has three games remaining to prove its worthiness.
Assistant Sports Editor Cris Tiller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.