Another night, another first half deficit for Colorado State.
The Rams (8-2) allowed the Roadrunners (4-8) to jump out to a 5-2 lead as CSU Bakersfield employed the full-court press, which gave CSU some fits early. The home team adapted and they started getting the ball into center Colton Iverson, whose back-to-back dunks gave Colorado State a 20-17 lead. But CSU Bakersfield would never allow the Rams to separate, and even took the 35-34 lead into the break.
CSU made a conscious effort to get the ball inside to start the second half, and Iverson scored on back-to-back layups to retake the lead at 38-35. A Pierce Hornung rebound-dunk pushed the lead to 57-50 and the Rams had to grind against the Roadrunners' extraordinary effort all night long. Down the stretch, hot shooting by Wes Eikmeier and strong play inside by Greg Smith and Hornung propelled Colorado State to the 78-58 victory.
The Rams dominated inside the paint; outscoring the Roadrunners 40-18, out-rebounding them 38-29. They also controlled the second half, out-scoring their opponents 42-23 in a battle to improve to 8-2 on the season.
“I think they're really starting to get, when we play the right way, we have a second half like we had,” explained head coach Larry Eustachy of his players buying into the system. “I told the guys that I think last year when you weren't scoring, we struggled. And our defense really set the tone in the second half.
“And what they like, and what I like, is that we're going to get a lot better. We're going to get a lot more physical, we're going to get a lot tougher in a lot of ways,” he finished.
“He (Eustachy) just wanted us to come out and play our game,” Greg Smith said. “He expects us to come out with more of a sense of urgency and more consistency and we didn't do that.”
“It was just a matter of putting thought into our defense and playing with a sense of urgency that we didn't have in the first half,” leading scorer Eikmeier said. “That's two games in a row so we're going to watch the film and learn from it and get better from it.”
Eikmeier finished with 17 points, while all five Rams starters scored in double digits.
The victory was Colorado State's 19th in a row at home, good for fourth-longest streak in the nation.
Now they travel to Nevada for the final two games of the Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic Saturday and Sunday against Portland and either Virginia Tech or Bradley.
Rich Kurtzman is a freelance journalist. You can follow Rich on twitter or facebook for all your CSU Rams news and opinion.