Following back-to-back losses last week, the Rams rebounded with a much-needed 74-67 victory over the Bulldogs inside Moby Arena. CSU improved to 22-6 overall, 9-4 in the Mountain West Conference.
While Wes Eikmeier led all scorers with 18 and Colton Iverson recorded another double-double of 12 points and 12 boards, the player of the game was Jon Octeus.
Octeus’ numbers aren’t awe-inspiring, though he did fill up the stat line. The sophomore JUCO transfer finished with six points, three rebounds, three assists and a steal; but, it was what he did on the defensive end that mattered most.
Fresno State’s Kevin Olekaibe started the game playing unconsciously, connecting on his first six attempts, all from beyond the arc. It was deja vu all over again, as the Rams have allowed many players to enjoy season and career-highs this season.
In the second half, Octeus was told to defend Olekaibe, and the Bulldogs’ guard only hit one shot while he was virtually erased from the offense during the crucial stretch run. Octeus was like Olekaibe’s shadow; he was never farther than arms reach from the dangerous scorer, taking an in-your-face, physical approach that frustrated and took Fresno’s deadliest scorer out of the game.
He denied Olekaibe, over and over again, disallowing him to catch the ball. After a few minutes, the Bulldogs guard was so frustrated, he stopped exerting effort.
But that didn’t stop Octeus, who stole the ball and jetted down court for a runaway dunk that not only got the crowd going, it pumped up the team and they pushed the lead to 49-40. Later, he rebounded a missed free throw by Iverson then smartly cut to the hoop late in the shot clock, and Dorian Green found him for another slam. Plus, his two makes from the charity stripe were clutch.
“It doesn’t take a genius to see he (Olekaibe) hit his first five threes, so we went to a “no-catch” defense,” Larry Eustachy said following the game of Octeus’ defense. “And he did a great job of frustrating him.
“Nobody on our team likes to compete and be in the game more than Jon,” the head coach continued. “He just does. He’s just a sophomore, but he has it…He probably puts more time in the gym, away from practice, than anybody on our team. He’s into it big-time.”
That’s big praise considering all the senior leadership on Colorado State’s team this year.
“Jon came in, the energy he brought to this game was outstanding,” Iverson said. “We wouldn’t have done it without him. Offensively, he had two dunks that were huge in the second half and his defensive was probably the biggest part of the night in winning this game.”
“He (Olekaibe) was 5-5 from three in the first half, so coach just told me to stay on him and don’t let him catch the ball,” Octeus explained. “If he does catch it, just pressure him as much as I could. Coach told me he wanted to step up on the defensive end…Just be aggressive.”
Aggressive is the best way to explain Octeus’ game.
If he sees an open lane, he’ll drive down it and try to dunk on opponents. He’s listed at 6-foot-4, but his amazing hops allow him to jump out of the gym. Seriously, the kid has springs in his legs.
Defensively, he showed that physical nature tonight, the ability to take a player out of the game even when he’s playing well. Octeus has been a big part of CSU’s depth this season as the seventh man on a team that usually only plays with a seven-man rotation, and his contributions have been key.
Considering he’s only a sophomore and how much he’s grown so quickly this season, the Rams and their fans have lots too look forward to from the blossoming young man.