Sweeping the season series against an in-state rival is sweet. Defeating a rival with a last-second shot is even sweeter.
Roman Van Allen scored the game-winning basket on a 10-foot desperation jump shot over two Western State College defenders with 5.2 seconds left in the game as Colorado State University-Pueblo defeated the Mountaineers 59-58 Friday night at Massari Arena.
“Luck had a little bit to do with it, but I’m just glad it went in and we got the win,” Van Allen said.
It was the third lead change during the last 34 seconds of the game.
Rome Smith made his only field goal of the evening on a driving layup with 34 seconds remaining to give the ThunderWolves a 57-56 advantage. Western State center Clayton Spencer was fouled by Jake Trahern on the ensuing Mountaineers possession. The 61 percent free throw shooter calmly stroked both attempts.
With no timeouts at their disposal, CSU-Pueblo inbounded the ball to Van Allen who dribbled the length of the floor to deliver the much-needed victory for the ThunderWolves.
The contest was a tale of two halves.
CSU-Pueblo controlled the tempo early and built a 21-12 lead at the midpoint of the first half on a thunderous dunk from Trahern. Trahern continued his stellar play of late, pacing the ThunderWolves with 15 points and six rebounds.
Despite another slow start from leading scorer Smith, the ThunderWolves managed to take a 34-24 lead into the halftime locker room.
Smith was held scoreless in the first half on 0-of-5 shooting from the field.
CSU-Pueblo was nearly flawless with the basketball in the first half, committing only one turnover.
Western State overcame a 15-point second half deficit with a 23-3 run which turned a 45-30 CSU-Pueblo lead into a 53-48 Mountaineers advantage.
“We weren’t hitting our shots and their defensive pressure got us a little rattled,” Van Allen said.
Allen McFarland and Cameron Burney led the second half Western State charge. The two combined for 33 points on 7-for-14 shooting from beyond the 3-point line.
“Of course when you get a big lead like that you want to keep it, but we couldn’t,” CSU-Pueblo coach Pat Eberhart said. “Western is a good team and they fought back.”
McFarland also snared a game-high 14 rebounds.
The ThunderWolves evened their overall record to 13-13 and are tied for sixth-place in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference standings.
“I thought our kids played hard and were resilient,” Eberhart said.
A win on Saturday over Mesa State College or a loss by Colorado School of Mines will clinch a postseason tournament berth for the ThunderWolves.