When Wyoming came knockin', the Whale was a-rockin'.
Moby Arena sold out for the first time Saturday night, as rival Wyoming made their annual trip to Fort Collins for the first game of the Border War against Colorado State, and the energy was electric for the big game.
And while Wyoming put up their best fight, it wasn't enough to beat the Rams on their home court, where they've won every game dating back to November of 2011. Colorado State scrapped for everything they got, with the Cowboys closing the Rams lead to eight with seven minutes to play, but when Colton Iverson dunked on Leonard Washington, it was a sure sign the home team stole the game's momentum back.
Colorado State held on and won the physical contest 65-46.
To start the game, CSU fed off the energy, jumping out to a 16-9 lead with the strength and tenacity of Pierce Hornung. The senior forward played like a man possessed; willing the ball into the hoop, through defenders with sheer power. Mr. Hustle busted his butt up and down the court, grabbing loose rebounds – six in the first half – to lead the game after one period.
But despite Hornung's great play to start the game, the rest of the Rams seemed a bit discombobulated through the middle of the first half, allowing the Cowboys to get within two points at 23-21.
Then it happened.
Colorado State went on a 7-0 run to end the half, powered by back-to-back three-pointers by Daniel Bejarano. It ended up being the game's turning point, as CSU led 30-21 at the break.
The Rams charged out of the locker room on a 6-0 run led by Hornung galloping down the court for layups in transition to push their lead to 15.
Of course, Wyoming wouldn't just roll over and quit, they fought hard and the game got bogged down by foul calls as it got incredibly physical on both ends of the court. The Cowboys pushed and went on a 6-0 run themselves, getting Colorado State's lead down to 10, at 40-30, with 13 minutes to play.
That lead was down to eight, but then Iverson dunked it with authority in Washington's face to ignite the crowd again.
The Rams salted away the foul-filled victory at the free throw line to win their 26th straight home contest.
Hornung finished with a double-double of 12 and 11 while a total of five CSU players scored in double digits.
The Rams rebounded extremely well, their bread and butter, winning the battle of the boards 42-28 while out-shooting the Cowboys 47 percent to 30.
"I thought they were two different teams," head coach Larry Eustachy said of the difference in the way his Rams played in the two halves. "I saw things that, we went backwards in the first half and I think it was because of the environment. I think we were overanxious and trying to do it all on our own.
"They got the message at halftime," he finished.
With the win, Colorado State improves to 18-4, 5-2 MWC and sits in second place of the Mountain West Conference. It was also their 26th straight home win, which extends their school record.
Next up for the Rams is a road game at Nevada Wednesday February 6 at 8 p.m. MT.