Las Vegas, NV—UNLV let this game slip away and it is a contest they would love to have back. It was a game they could of easily won but poor shooting down the stretch was there achilles heel.
Isaiah Stevens scored 33 points (two off his career high), drained 8 of 16 3-pointers (a career-high for 3-pointers) to go with nine assists and eight rebounds to lift Colorado State (10-9, 2-4 Mountain West) pass UNLV (12-5, 1-4 MW) 82-81 on Saturday night at the Thomas Mack Center in front 5,802 Rebels fans.
Isaiah Rivera (he was a high school quarterback) ran the baseline and fired deep pass down the court. Stevens caught it, turned and threw an overhead heave at rim and banked it in. The shot forced overtime. The play had remnants of Christian Laettner’s famous shot in the NCAA Tournament.
Then in waning seconds of overtime, he gave the CSU their first lead of OT with a deep three with 3.4 seconds left. Then he forced a UNLV turnover on the ensuing in-bounds pass.
“I think that’s the best performance he’s ever had here, and he’s had some great ones. Just willed us to victory,” CSU coach Niko Medved said on the postgame show on 99.1 FM.
Stevens will go down as one of the best players in Colorado State basketball history, and he put on a show for the ages Saturday night.
CSU were down 68-64 in the final seconds when Stevens hit a 3-pointer to keep Colorado State in it. The Rams then trailed 70-67 with three seconds left after a pair of UNLV free throws.
This a big win for the Rams to reset this season, but it’s the first time that CSU have beat UNLV in Las Vegas since 2017.
The Rams took a 35-34 lead into the locker room.
EJ Harkless scored 26 of his career-high 33 points after halftime, while Justin Webster chipped in 15 points and Luis Rodriguez contributed 12.
The Runnin’ Rebels forced 20 CSU turnovers, marking the 10th game this season that a UNLV opponent has made 20 or more miscues in a contest.
But the man of the hour was Stevens. He displayed his full skillset. He was on fire from downtown and used space and screens to get open. He found his spot on the court with ease and his vision was perfect, with clean looks to get his teammates buckets. He turned the ball over only twice in 42 minutes of play against one of the best teams in the nation at forcing turnovers.
While Stevens was the man, the offense got going in the second half. CSU shot 51% overall and the Rams had 25 assists on 31 made baskets. Jalen Lake poured in 13 points, John Tonje scored 12 and Patrick Cartier had 10.
We just found a way,” Medved said. “What a game and what a performance by our guys.”
UNLV shot a dismal 38.5% from the field (25 of 65) and 32.0% on 3-pointers (8 of 25) for the game.
The Rams won on the blocks scoring 28-22. Down the stretch they went low in the paint to get easy buckets.
After guard Jordan McCabe made one of two free throws to give the Rebels an 81-79 lead with 16 seconds left in overtime, Stevens made the game-winning 3-pointer with four seconds left on the clock. Harkless’ 3-point try front half court as time expired was off target.
“This one is one of those you’ll never forget,” Medved said. “I know one thing, I’m going to enjoy the heck out of it tonight.”
CSU returns home to host its annual White Out game next Wednesday, January 18 at 8:30 pm against San Diego State. The game will air on FS1.
UNLV will head out on the road for two Mountain West games next week – at Utah State on Tuesday, Jan. 17 and at Fresno State on Saturday, Jan. 21.