Continuing a trend that dates back all the way to 1981, the CSU men’s basketball won it’s opening game of the season.
More importantly, the Rams took the first step towards righting the ship after last year’s disappointing 12-18 finish.
CSU pulled away from the Indiana-Purdue-Fort Wayne Mastodons in the second half of Saturday’s Black Coaches Association Tournament at Moby Arena, and went on to an 80-62 victory.
With the score tied 41-41, senior forward Brian Greene sparked a 10-0 CSU run early in the second period by scoring six points and coming up with three steals. That surge put the game away for the Rams, who had four players score in double digits, and were led by junior Ronnie Clark, who finished with 20 points and seven rebounds.
“I thought it was an extremely hard-fought game,” said Rams head coach Dale Layer, who is now 3-0 in season openers. “I think our defensive pressure midway through the second half was the difference and gave us a little momentum.”
Both the Rams and IPFW left little doubt they were playing for the first time this season – the two teams combined for 47 turnovers. However, the Rams were able to capitalize with 18 points off IPFW’s 30 giveaways.
“If you’re going to turn the ball over 30 times you’re not going to win many games,” IPFW head coach Doug Noll said. “I thought our kids competed, we just didn’t make smart decisions at certain times in the game.”
The Mastodons were led by guard Terry Collins, who scored15 points and had five rebounds, and center Jim Kessenich with 14 points and six rebounds.
The sparse crowd of 1,729 at Moby was treated to a career-best performance from the Rams’ sophomore forward Matt Williams, who scored 16 points and added five rebounds.
“I’ve been waiting on this game, just wondering when it was going to come,” Williams said of his performance. “Our offense was just flowing and it allowed me to get some open cuts and open looks.”
After taking an 11-10 lead only five minutes into the contest, the Rams never trailed again. Although the Mastodons tied the game on several occasions, a stingy defensive effort and balanced scoring in the second half allowed CSU to pull away for the double digit win.
“I thought it (the offense) was balanced because I think we have more weapons than we had a year ago,” Layer said. “There are a lot of guys that can put up some points, but what could have been the difference in the game was a guy who was scoreless, and that was Darien Chavis. I thought his defense was exceptional and he gave us a lift every time he was on the floor, and harassed their guards unmercifully. In my mind he’s the player of the game.”
Chavis, a sophomore guard from Philadelphia, Pa., played 15 minutes in the second half, recorded two steals, and was able to stop IPFW’s offense on multiple occasions.
“There are roles that everybody plays and my role is to play defense and get people the ball,” Chavis said. “I think I’m one of the best defenders on the team and that’s something good I can bring to the team.”