Thursday, February 14, 2013 1:43 am
No. 24 Colorado State beats Aztecs 66-60
By ARNIE MELENDREZ STAPLETONAP Sports Writer
Green scored six straight points in the final 65 seconds Wednesday night, helping No. 24 Colorado State celebrate its first game as a ranked team in 59 years with a thrilling 66-60 win over San Diego State.
Green missed a jumper with 1:11 left that would have erased the Aztecs' 60-58 lead, but teammate Pierce Hornung got the board and fed Green for the go-ahead 3-pointer and the 15th lead change of the night.
After an uncharacteristic air ball by Xavier Thames at the other end, Green found himself with the basketball in his hands again and Aztecs star Jamaal Franklin standing between him at the basket with 18 seconds left.
Green plowed into Franklin as the ball went through the hoop, then spun around to see if he'd been whistled for the charge - which both coaches thought was going to be the case.
"Right when I jumped, I was thinking I didn't know if it was going to be a charge or a block," Green acknowledged. "Until I heard the crowd's reaction.
"He must have been in the circle because he was pretty low. I was hoping when I released that he was in that circle. Because it was going to be a charge if he wasn't."
Instead, the call went against Franklin.
"I was just waiting for that ref to call a charge and call it off," Rams coach Larry Eustachy admitted. "It wasn't to be."
The Aztecs argued Franklin was well outside the no-charge zone and should have gotten the call.
"But officiating is part of what we do," Aztecs coach Steve Fisher said. "We had chances."
After Green's bonus gave the Rams a 64-60 lead, Greg Smith stole the ball from Franklin and fed Jon Octeus for an exclamation dunk that gave Colorado State its biggest lead of the night.
"We made enough plays at the end of the game to pull this one off," said Green, whose 16 points led the Rams (20-4, 7-2 Mountain West), who matched their win total from last year and extended their home-court winning streak to 27 games, third-longest in the nation.
"We wanted to show people that we deserved it, that we could keep it going," Smith said. "We felt we should have (been ranked) weeks ago."
The Aztecs (18-6, 6-4), who beat Colorado State 79-72 in overtime last month, had just three turnovers through the first 33 minutes before turning the ball over five times down the stretch.
"That doesn't help either," Fisher said. "You've got to be able to get a shot to have a chance to score. But this was a tough, hard-fought game just like we thought it would be. We were in a position to win, we didn't quite get it done and that's what makes it hurt all the more."
Chase Tapley led San Diego State with 16 points and Franklin and J.J. O'Brien each had 12. The Aztecs did a great job of defending Iverson in the post, holding him to 7 points, half his average. Iverson, though, grabbed 11 boards.
Franklin, the only player in the nation who leads his team in scoring, rebounds, assists and steals, missed 9 of his 13 shots and the Rams held the rest of his considerable game in check, too.
"We made it a point to prevent what he does," Hornung said. "We did. He is a heck of a player."
The Aztecs don't usually lose close games like this, either.
Over the last three seasons, they own the highest winning percentage in the country (.806) in games decided by six points or fewer or in overtime (25-6), and they came into the game having won 14 of 17 under Fisher when tied at halftime. This one was tied at 35 at the break.
They've also won 87 straight games when leading with 5 minutes left, and this one was tied at 54 at the 5-minute mark.
At 24th in both polls, the Rams vaulting into the rankings this week for the first time since 1954, when they were ranked for four weeks, reaching as high as No. 18, on their way to the school's first NCAA tournament berth. Back then, Colorado State was known as Colorado Agricultural and Mechanical College.
Fittingly, the Rams honored the program's heritage Wednesday night by wearing pumpkin orange and alfalfa green uniforms with the Colorado A&M mascot "Aggies" written across their chests.
They're now 4-0 on "Orange Out" nights over the last four seasons.
While the Aztecs have won 33 straight games against California teams, they've now lost two straight against Colorado teams. They were beaten 70-67 at Air Force on Feb. 2.
The last time CSU started out 7-2 in league play was as a member of the Western Athletic Conference in 1996-97.
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