Hot shooting and a solid defensive effort lifted the Colorado State University-Pueblo men's basketball team to an 84-65 season-opening victory Friday against Rogers State University. The Pack hit 15 3-pointers in the friendly confines of Massari Arena and held the Hillcats to 35 percent from the field.
Six different players knocked down a 3-pointer for the ThunderWolves (1-0), guided by five from senior Josh Smith (Colorado Springs, Colo.). As a team the Pack shot 54.5 percent from the field and 53.6 percent from long range. The ThunderWolves also won the rebounding battle 35-31 and totaled seven blocks. CSU-Pueblo had four true freshman, a redshirt-freshman and senior newcomer contribute to the win.
It was a bit of a revenge game for the ThunderWovles, as the Pack lost last year's season opener at Rogers State, 85-82.
Senior Will Newman (Hawthorne, Calif.) guided the Pack with 20 points on 5-of-7 (71.4%) shooting from the field and a perfect effort from long range (2-of-2) and from the charity stripe (8-for-8). He added six rebounds, five assists, two steals and a block.
Smith finished 19 points on 7-of-11 (63.6%) shooting from the field and pulled down five rebounds. Sophomore Donovan Oldham (Colorado Springs, Colo.) recorded 16 points and nine rebounds with four assists. He knocked down four 3-pointers. Newcomer Mika Nuolivirta (Sr., Vantaa, Uusimaa, Finland) went 6-for-7 (85.7%) from the field, while the 6-foot, 11-inch center also connected on a 3-pointer. He pulled down nine rebounds and recorded two blocks.
Smith hit the first shot of the year for the Pack, a 3-pointer, in the first minute of play, then five straight points from Nuolivirta handed the home team an 8-0 lead. RSU cut it to four at 8-4 with 16:28 showing on the game clock, but that would be as close as the Hillcats would get. CSU-Pueblo rattled off a 10-0 run (five from Smith) to lead 18-4 just 6:34 into the season. The lead pushed to 20 at 31-11 midway through the half before settling at 22 at the break, 47-25.
CSU-Pueblo shot 55.6 percent from the field and hit eight 3-pointers in the opening 20 minutes.
The first four minutes of the second frame ensured a Pack victory, as the advantage went to 32 at 61-29. The home team pushed the lead to as high as 37 before settling on the 19-point win.
The ThunderWolves will host University of Arkansas-Fort Smith Saturday at 7 p.m. at Massari Arena to close the Conference Challenge.