By ADAM WHITTEN
Colorado State’s men’s basketball team was ram tough.
Jameel Mahmud’s 21 second-half points kept the BYU men’s basketball team from winning in what may have been its best offensive performance since the Cougars lone WAC victory against Wyoming last month.
Colorado State beat the Cougars 83-74 at Fort Collins. The 74-point performance was the second highest of the season for BYU. Conversely, the 83 points allowed were the most by the BYU this season.
Ron Selleaze led the Cougars in scoring and rebounding with 20 points and 13 rebounds respectively. Nine of those rebounds came on the offensive end of the floor. Selleaze also made his first three-point attempt of the game, breaking an 0-19 streak.
Danny Bower added 14 points and Mekeli Wesley notched 12 points in a losing cause.
BYU dropped to 6-18 overall and 1-8 in the WAC. Colorado State (19-4, 7-3) moved within a game of second place Utah in the WAC’s Mountain Division.
BYU trailed 47-44 early in the second half, but Colorado State outscored the Cougars 25-12 over the next eight minutes to take control of the game.
The Cougars closed the gap to 78-69 with less than two minutes to go, but would draw no closer.
“This is one of the best basketball games we’ve played in 2-3 weeks,” BYU head coach Steve Cleveland said. “Colorado State played outstanding basketball and we hung in there.”
BYU’s performance was not a sterling one, but it was a better looking loss considering the competition. The Cougars shot 33.3 percent from the field and three-point range. BYU kept the game close by making 30-37 free throws compared to just 21-35 for Colorado State.
Colorado State shot 55.1 percent from the field and made 44.4 percent of its three-point shots.
“Everyone was happy with our effort offensively,” Selleaze said. “But we lost this one, and the last couple (of games), on the defensive end.”
Mahmud finished with 24 points to pace the Rams. Brian Christiansen and Ryan Chilton chipped in with 16 points each for CSU.
BYU outrebounded CSU 39-31, but failed to convert on its extra opportunities inside, Cleveland said. Selleaze, in particular, had difficulty finishing off on his offensive rebounds, Cleveland said. Selleaze was just 4-14 from the field, but made 11-14 of his free throw attempts.
BYU trailed 40-35 at halftime. CSU had outscored the Cougars 15-4 to build a 10 point lead, but BYU outscored the Rams 5-0 to finish the first half.
The Cougars started the game on fire, making five of their first seven shots from behind the three-point arc. BYU’s hot hand kept the them close, as evidenced by the nine first-half lead changes.
BYU will have to finish strong to make the season-ending WAC Tournament in Las Vegas, Cleveland said. He said he is not giving up on that goal until the team is mathematically eliminated.
“The point is, we’re still breathing,” Cleveland said. “And we’re not going to give up. We’re still in this thing.”
BYU needs to win three of its last five games to have a realistic shot at the tournament, Cleveland said. With home games against Air Force and UNLV remaining, and road tests at Wyoming, New Mexico and UTEP, he said three victories is a possibility.
The Cougars next travel to Wyoming for a 7:30 p.m. MST tip-off Saturday.