If a game ever proved the adage that it isn’t about how you start, it is how you finish, this may have been it.
CSU jumped to 17-point and 13-point leads early in the first and second half, but the Wyoming Cowboys dominated the end of each half, eventually pulling away for a 77-67 win at Moby Arena Wednesday night.
The loss was the 14th consecutive for the Rams (6-20, 0-12), the longest single-season losing streak in CSU history (two longer streaks bridged two seasons), and the losing is certainly taking its toll on the Rams.
“I shed a few tears (in the locker room), and everyone I know will tell you that I am the least emotional guy ever,” Rams senior center Stuart Creason said.
The frustration from the Rams stems from the fact that they seemingly had the Cowboys (10-16, 3-10) on the ropes at multiple occasions, but long stretches without baskets, mostly coinciding with Creason sitting out with foul trouble, doomed the Rams.
The Cowboys took advantage of the Rams’ lack of size other than Creason, pounding the ball inside, getting a career-high 21 points from forward Joseph Taylor and a near career-high 17 points from Tyson Johnson. Taylor fired up the Cowboys with three huge dunks in the first half, including a one-handed tomahawk over Creason that was SportsCenter’s top play of the night.
“The team that is the aggressor wins, and tonight the aggressor was Wyoming,” CSU head coach Tim Miles said .
The Rams jumped out to a 31-14 lead in the first,keyed by 12 points from Creason, but then watched as the Cowboys closed the half on a 14-1 run to pull to within four at 32-28.
CSU responded by opening the second half on a 9-0 run and held a 47-38 lead with 11:32 remaining in the game.
“Stu (Creason) was our go-to man in the first, and not having him in the second was big,” said guard Marcus Walker, who scored 14 points. “We have got to all be ready just in case (of foul trouble). We can’t put it all on one person.”
Wyoming used a 12-0 run to gain the lead with 8:17 remaining and bullied the Rams inside as they pulled away.
CSU struggled to get shots to drop from the field and the free-throw line during the stretch, while Wyoming closed the game out from the charity stripe.
The Rams, who return to the court Saturday night at San Diego State, know they can’t focus on the streak if they want to have the season end on a good note.
“We know we have to play hard every possession and worry about the result after we’re through,” said Walker.
Sports writer Matthew Pucak can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.