GAME NOTES: A couple of Mountain West Conference teams trying to avoid three- game skids get together in the Golden State tonight, as the Colorado State Rams battle the San Jose State Spartans.
The Rams have had the misfortune of contending against two of the stronger teams in the MWC to kick off their league schedule, as well as the 2014 calendar year. Colorado State first fell to nationally-ranked San Diego State at home on New Year's Day, 71-61, and then dropped an 80-73 final versus New Mexico on the road this past Saturday. The setback in The Pit means CSU is now 0-3 in true road games.
As for the Spartans, they too have opened the conference schedule with back- to-back defeats, in their case after winning four straight outings. The team was taken down by Nevada last week by a 62-50 score at the Event Center, and then was crushed by Utah State in Logan on Saturday night, 86-67.
The Rams have never lost to SJSU, sporting a perfect 6-0 mark in the all-time series. The teams are also set to clash at Moby Arena the first week of March in order to complete the season series.
Shooting only 36.1 percent from the field in the first half and 38.7 percent after the break, the Rams kept themselves from battling New Mexico until the end. Daniel Bejarano, who picked up his fourth personal foul just three minutes into the second half, managed to finish with a career-best 25 points as he converted 5-of-7 tries from behind the 3-point line. J.J. Avila and Joe De Ciman accounted for 14 and 13 points, respectively.
Knocking down 53.4 percent of his field goal attempts, Avila leads the Rams in scoring on the season with 18.9 ppg and is also first with 52 assists. Making him a triple-threat whenever he's on the floor, Avila is also second on the unit with 6.4 rpg, trailing only Bejarano (15.1 ppg) who has pulled down 9.4 rpg. As someone who can dominate in the paint when he puts his mind to it, Bejarano would be smart to focus his energies closer to the rim instead of beyond the arc where he has shot only 29.9 percent.
Of the 57 field goal attempts by San Jose State versus Utah State, 35 of those came from 3-point range, 15 falling through the rim, but still that wasn't good enough to take out the Aggies. Rashad Muhammad accounted for 20 points off the bench as he sank 6-of-9 beyond the arc, followed by Jaleel Williams and Devante Wilson with 13 and 11 points, respectively. The Spartans were not only crushed on the glass, 42-22, they were also dominated at the free-throw line, 18-4.
Muhammad has come off the bench in all but one of the team's 14 games this season, and yet he is currently the top overall scorer by a wide margin with his 16.6 ppg, compared to Williams who is second with 11.7 ppg. Muhammad has converted an impressive 45.4 percent of his 3-point tries, compared to a mere 27.8 percent for Williams who is clearly more effective in the paint where he is clearing 6.2 rpg to rank second behind only Chris Cunningham (8.0 ppg) with his 6.9 rpg.
As long as Bejarano doesn't limit his time on the floor again due to foul trouble and Avila is free to patrol the paint, this should be the perfect opportunity for the Rams to finally pick up that first true road win of the season.
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