The snow was falling with a three degree temperature in Fairbanks but the play of the Colorado State men's basketball team was anything but cold as they defeated Oregon State 69-56 in their first game of the BP Top of the World Classic. The Rams advance in the winner's bracket to play Tennessee State at noon AKT Saturday. Willis Gardner led the way with 20 points on 75 percent shooting with three three-pointers, five rebounds and five assists as Tim Miles earned his first win at the helm of the Rams.
Creason notched a double-double with 17 rebounds and 17 points. Creason also had three assists and two blocked shots. Last year's leader in field goal percentage shot 72.7 percent on the night.
"Any win is a good win and this is a good place to start," said Head Coach Tim Miles. "I thought our kids played with good energy and did what we asked them to. I think the biggest adjustment was just getting those guys shots and talking to them about their shots." Colorado State came out as a very different team from the last game in the first period. The Rams opened the game grabbing a 9-6 lead. The Beavers were able to tie the game and take a one point advantage 20-19 with 11:47 remaining in the half. That was the last lead OSU would have as CSU went on and eight point run for the 27-20 lead. The teams traded baskets in the final few minutes but the Rams took an eight-point lead to the locker room at the half.
Gardner was all but flawless in the opening stanza hitting all four of his shots, three from beyond the arc, was 2-of-3 from the line for 13 points with two rebounds and four assists. Stuart Creason was not far behind with 10 points, four rebounds and three assists for the Rams. The team shot 59.3 percent from the field and scored 16 points in the paint. CSU held an 11-3 advantage in points off turnovers.
"The kids are getting a feel for each other," Miles continued. "Tonight was just a good step. The fact that we handled Oregon State pretty well is a good thing. We didn't have any problems until we got an 18 point lead. Then I started coaching but it worked out in the end." CSU opened the second half holding the Beavers scoreless for the first four minutes of the second stanza with an 8-0 run that ended with a three-pointer for the Beavers. The Rams outrebounded OSU 7-2 in run and scored six points in the paint. The Beavers were able to cut the lead to nine before Gardner converted a three-point play after getting fouled on a layup. The Rams then held Oregon State scoreless for more than six minutes, extending the lead to 62-47 on the 12-0 run.
The fast pace of the game began to wear on the young Rams. CSU turned the ball over three times but the defense held the Beavers to just eight points in the final five minutes. The Rams shot 40 percent in the half while holding Oregon State to 24.2 percent. Freshman Andre McFarland bounced back from his game against Montana with 11 points, two rebounds and two assists. Also in double figures was Marcus Walker with 10 points to go with three rebounds and two assists.
The Rams will play two more game in Fairbanks beginning with Saturday's match up. The two-hour time change means that KLZ 560 AM will pick up the game in progress immediately following the football game vs. Wyoming.
Check out the box score at the link below, and for tourney information, including bracket, visit the official tournament website.