LOUISVILLE, Ky.â€”In less than 10 minutes, the dream turned into a nightmare.
Turnover after turnover led to basket after basket and before you could blink a one-point halftime lead turned into a 15-point deficit, not even halfway into the second half.
Colorado State basketball looked to be in a position to pull off the upset, but Murray State jumped the Rams in the second half and turned a nail-biter into a 58-41 blowout at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville.
The Racers ramped up the intensity in the second half, throwing hard defensive pressure at CSU and attacking the basket offensively.
â€œThey were just very physical in the second half,â€ guard Jesse Carr said. â€œWe didnâ€™t respond to that very well.â€
That defensive pressure led to 14 CSU turnovers in the second half, nine of them in the first 10 minutes as the Rams looked like a team that was scared and rattled on the big stage of the NCAA Tournament. Murray State ended up scoring 20 points off of CSU turnovers.
â€œYeah,(we were) a little rattled,â€ Wes Eikmeier said. â€œItâ€™s hard to pinpoint why that is. You can probably pinpoint it to a couple of different factors.â€
The Rams looked like a team unable to cope with the pressure and that may have been part of what caused almost all of the players to perform below expectations.
Of the eight CSU players that saw significant time, only Pierce Hornung and Carr met or exceeded their season averages in scoring.
Eikmeier, the Rams leading scorer on the season, hit only 4-of-12 shot attempts, Greg Smith scored three points while his brother Dwight scored only one. Starters Kaipo Sabas and Dorian Green were both held off the scoreboard.
â€œOur main focus was to come out and play aggressive, to not allow any easy baskets inside,â€ Murray Stateâ€™s Ed Daniel said. â€œThatâ€™s what we did.â€
The team stats arenâ€™t any prettier. The Rams scored a season low 41 points, shot a season low field goal percentage (.333), had a low for free throws attempted in a game (9) and tied a low in field goals made (16). CSU also had the most turnovers it had committed in a single game (22).
While the Rams struggled offensively, Murray State took over the paint on the other end of the floor. The Racers entered the game as the fifth-best 3-point shooting team in the nation, but hit only 5-of-17 threes.
Since the threes werenâ€™t falling, Murray State kept going inside, scoring 18 points in the paint after the intermission.
â€œYou look in our locker room and those kids were really disappointed, very frustrated and their coach feels the same way,â€ CSU coach Tim Miles said. â€œNobody wants to go out and perform poorly. Everybody is disappointed when you do.â€
Assistant Sports Editor Kevin Lytle can be reached at email@example.com.