If the scuffle on the CSU sideline in the early minutes of the game didn’t set the tone for Saturday night’s match-up, the 23 percent shooting and 15 percent turnover rate by halftime certainly did.
In their 65-56 loss to No. 5 San Diego State University on the road, the Rams got off to a rocky start straight from the opening tipoff. Guard Daniel Bejarano and head coach Larry Eustachy got into a visibly heated argument in the early minutes of the first half, resulting in Bejarano remaining on the bench for the duration of the night.
“Daniel has a lot of growing up to do,” Eustachy said. “I didn’t like the way things went down and I decided not to play him.”
After the squabble, Bejarano watched his team progressively bury themselves under an unstoppable Aztec offense. Player of the Year contender Xavier Thames dropped 24 points on the evening. He was closely followed by his fellow starter Winston Shepard, who finished with 17.
While the Aztecs dominated the floor both offensively and defensively, the Rams struggled to get going on both sides of the court.
“We took what happened when we played them here last year when we were down by 18 pts and used that,” guard Jon Octeus said. “We just told our team not to worry, don’t let your heads down. They’ll let us back into the game because its a long game, there’s a lot of possessions and we were just trying to get one stop at a time.”
The largest lead the Rams had in the game was by a margin of two points, which expired three minutes into the first half and never managed to revive itself.
However, there was one speck of light for the Rams’ offense in guard Jon Octeus.
Octeus allowed the Rams to stay in the game by scoring 24 points and was able to cut CSU’s deficit from 19 down to six. Unfortunately, Octeus’s efforts fell short in the fiercely competitive Mountain West contest.
“They’re No. 5 for a reason,” Eustachy said. “I thought we hung in there well with them once we got settled down.”
In addition to the strategic struggles the Rams faced on Saturday night, the fundamentals still appeared to be a deterrent for CSU. Throughout the season, the Rams have had difficulty staying out of foul trouble. This remained true as five CSU players had three or more fouls, one being Joe De Ciman, who ultimately fouled out of the game for the third consecutive time.
“I felt like we were right there with them and we were about to turn the corner,” forward Marcus Holt said. “And when we do, we’re going to be a great team.”
Collegian Reporter Hannah Cornish can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @hmcornish.