The Colorado State Rams men's basketball team is 9-0 for the second time in three seasons. On Wednesday night the No. 13 ranked Rams rallied for a 90-80 win over the Denver Pioneers in Fort Collins.
CSU's Isaiah Stevens scored 15 of his 18 points in the second half and Nique Clifford started a pivotal run late in the game.
The Rams never could gain much separation from the pesky Pioneers (6-4), who entered the game as 20 1/2-point underdogs. Clifford paced a 7-0 run with a corner 3-pointer and a thunderous dunk that fueled the frenzied crowd at Moby Arena. Denver was called for a late intentional foul on a fast-break and a technical that allowed the Rams to stretch the lead after trailing by four midway through the second half.
"We definitely didn't roll our 'A' game, but give a lot of credit to Denver," Colorado State coach Niko Medved said. "We're going to get everyone's ultimate focus and intensity. We've got to be at our best every game."
Stevens started just 1 of 7 from the field in the first half, with his shots hitting all parts of the rim before popping out. That changed in the second half, when he went 5 for 5 from the floor. He also finished with nine assists.
"Stevens did what great players do - they take over games when they're in question late," Pioneers coach Jeff Wulbrun said. "He just made big basket after big basket, I thought, down the stretch. He's as good as any point guard in the country."
Patrick Cartier scored 19 points for the Rams.
Tommy Bruner, the Summit League peak performer for the month of November, had 28 points and eights assists for Denver. The Pioneers haven't beaten a ranked team on the road since knocking off No. 13 Oregon in 1971.
The Rams tried to counteract the torrid early shooting of Denver by utilizing their inside game. The Rams finished with a 42-28 margin in points in the paint.
"We never got discouraged," Wulbrun said. "Maybe disappointed, but we didn't get discouraged."
Colorado State was missing Josiah Strong and Jalen Lake due to injuries.
"It always hurts not having some of your key guys," said Clifford, whose team was coming off consecutive wins over Boston College, No. 10 Creighton, Colorado and Washington. "But that's part of college basketball."
Bruner helped the Pioneers to a 39-35 lead at halftime with 15 first-half points. Denver hit eight 3-pointers in the opening half, including one by Touko Tainamo just before the buzzer sounded.
The Rams host host Saint Mary's on Saturday.
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