Gritty Dorian Green couldn’t sit out Thursday’s NCAA Tournament game.
His ankle, which has been injured for nearly two weeks after he rolled it in the team’s season finale, was still nagging him, but he had to play. He knew his Colorado State Rams couldn’t win the game without him, so he gave it a go, at a self-reported 80-90 percent health-wise.
It was enough to bring out a profound performance that lifted his Rams to a second-round win over the Missouri Tigers, inspiring play from the senior point guard.
In the first half, Green did each and everything he’s done throughout his career at CSU, showing off just how valuable he is to the squad. He drove and dished, finding center Colton Iverson in the lane for an easy layup. Green took his man off the dribble and tossed in a floater, and when he was fouled by taking the ball aggressively to the hoop, he made free throws. He even sank shots from downtown, and his Rams took a 47-38 lead into the break.
In the second, he cut intelligently through the Tigers’ defense, getting himself open for a layup that sustained a six-point lead. Despite his injury, Green kept attacking the rim, getting thrown to the ground on back-to-back plays but earning more free throws. Later, drove the hole again, picking up another foul and making two more from the charity stripe. When it was all said and done, Green led all scorers with 26 points.
Maybe most importantly, Green led teammates while on the floor. His verbal directions helped open up the offense, and the Rams ran with rhythm. It was one of CSU’s most outstanding offensive outings of the season; they shot 49 percent, scored 84 points and won the game by 12.
Colorado State became the first Mountain West Conference team to win in the NCAA Tournament after both the Boise State Broncos and UNLV Runnin’ Rebels lost Wednesday and Thursday respectively. With Green healthy, the Rams are certainly a sleeper, and they face the No. 1 seeded Louisville Cardinals Saturday.
If CSU plays like they did Thursday, they have a real shot of knocking off the Cardinals and moving on to the Sweet Sixteen. But for now, this is a sweet win for a group of five senior starters.