After leading through almost the entire first half and the early part of the second half, the CSU menâ€™s basketball team faded late against Stanford University, losing 64-52.
The loss cost the Rams a chance to advance to the NIT Season Tip-Off Final Four in New York City.
CSU had a shot late after cutting its deficit down to two at 54-52. But Greg Smith missed a three for the lead and Stanford scored the next six points to all but close out the game.
Stanford won by locking down on defense in the second half. CSU shot only 29 percent and scored 19 points in the half.
That defense forced Smith into a poor game. The forward hit four-of-15 shots, two-of-seven free throws and committed four turnovers. No one else was able to pick up the scoring as the team lost sight of the game plan.
â€œI thought we had the same mentality we had at the end of the Montana game, which is we played hero basketball,â€ said CSU coach Tim Miles of the second half performance. â€œIâ€™m going to make the great pass, the perfect pass. I thought we just lost our fundamentals, and thatâ€™s really disappointing to me as a coach because weâ€™re better than that. â€œ
The poor second half will sting CSU after it dominated for most of the first half.
Stanford scored the first basket of the game, but the Rams responded with the next six points and eventually built their lead to as big as 11 with less than five minutes remaining in the half.
The extended run was led by guards Wes Eikmeier and Jesse Carr. Eikmeier notched nine points in the half, while Carr had eight.
But Stanford battled back off of some missed shots and sloppy turnovers by CSU. Stanford completed an 11-2 run to end the half when Gabriel Harris hit a shot from well inside his own half as time expired.
The loss takes away a chance for CSU to play in fabled Madison Square Garden. The Rams will now go into an NIT consolation bracket with games played early in Thanksgiving week. Games and locations are still to be determined.
â€œThe only way to look at this is as a missed opportunity,â€ Miles said. â€œItâ€™s disappointing. I think Iâ€™m angry, the guys are angry, because I felt like it was self inflicted. Thereâ€™s no try hard, weâ€™re right there, moral victory. Thatâ€™s ridiculous, weâ€™re beyond those years.â€
Assistant Sports Editor Kevin Lytle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
CSU: Wes Eikmeier, 13 points, 2 assists
Stanford: Josh Owens, 15 points, 4 rebounds
Gabriel Harris, 12 points, 4 assists