A small halftime lead was squandered late in the second half of play as the Rams lost their first game of the season to the Kansas State Wildcats (6-1), 71-67.
CSU (6-1) jumped out to an early 17-7 lead mid-way through the first half Wednesday night in Manhattan, Kan. in front of a crowd of more than 4,700 fans. However, sophomore center Jason Smith got in foul trouble early, picking up two fouls in the first half and opening the door for Kansas State to close the gap to one point before the intermission.
"We've got to have Jason in the game. I thought he got a couple ticky-tack fouls and a couple of things that he probably did not handle very well and he's going to learn from it," said CSU head coach Dale Layer according to KSU media relations.
With 18 seconds left on the game clock, a Sean Morris three-pointer cut KSU's lead down to 67-64. After two free-throws by KSU's Cartier Martin, CSU freshman Stephan Gilling hit another three-pointer with 9.4 seconds left to pull within two points and keep the Rams' hopes alive. But two more made free throws and and a failed shot from beyond the arc sealed the deal for the home team.
"We felt like we had a chance to win. I thought our pressure was bothering them a little bit and we got a steal or two. We had some opportunities but we just couldn't quite get it to a one possession game. They stepped up and made some big free throws. I think the game was won by their free throw shooting," Layer said.
The 'Cats were led by sophomore forward David Hoskins, who had a career night by scoring 24 points on 6-for-9 shooting. Hoskins used his 6'5" 225-pound frame to play under the hoop with Smith and fellow 7-foot center Stuart Creason, and draw fouls. He only missed three of his 15 free throws.
"Coach emphasized going up hard against them because they wanted to block shots. We were just trying to go to the rim hard and get them into foul trouble," said Hoskins in the media release.
The Wildcats held the reigning 2004-05 MWC freshman of the year to six points, but Smith still managed to haul in seven rebounds and block two shots. He played a season-low 19 minutes in the contest.
"We need him in the game. He is our best player, but I thought other guys stepped up," Layer said.
CSU also managed keep the stand-out forward Martin on the bench for much of the game by getting him in early foul trouble. Martin was still able to score 18 points on 4-for-11 shooting to go along with six rebounds.
Although CSU lost the game, their defense continued to play well. They the Wildcats to 27 percent shooting in the first half and 35 percent for the game. But the defense was still unable to hold the Wildcats at the end of the game.
"We need to work on our team defense. Tonight at the end of the game, we let them score some easy baskets and we didn't come up with that key rebound we needed tonight," said sophomore guard Sean Morris to the KSU media.
CSU will return to practice on Friday to prepare for their next game Saturday night. They will play host to Pepperdine University at Moby Arena. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.
Points 67 71
FG percent 41.5 (22-53) 35.7 (20-56)
3-point percent 29.4 (5-17) 33.3 (4-12)
Free-throw 81.8 (18-22) 84 (27-32)
Turnovers 23 18
Blocked shots 6 3
Largest lead 10 9
Points Rebounds Assists
Michael Harrison 13 (6-9) 6 0
Corey Lewis 12 (4-8) 6 6
Sean Morris 12 (3-8) 0 2
Points Rebounds Assists
David Hoskins 24 (6-9) 6 0
Cartier Martin 18 (4-10) 7 1