Colorado State fans packed into Moby Arena thanks to a promise of free pizza and T-shirts.
They were treated to quite a show, too.
Wes Eikmeier scored 19 points and Colorado State made all 23 of its free throws, beating No. 13 San Diego State 77-60 on Saturday for its first home win over a ranked team in more than eight years.
Will Bell added 17 points and the Rams (14-6, 3-2 Mountain West) frustrated the fatigued Aztecs (18-3, 4-1) all afternoon, limiting them to 3-of-21 shooting from 3-point range.
It was the first time Colorado State beat a Top 25 team at Moby since knocking off Purdue 71-69 on Dec. 30, 2003. Fans were eager to join the celebration as the student section rushed onto the floor, some waving cardboard cutouts of Rams coach Tim Miles and Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow.
This was just what the Rams needed after dropping two straight on the road, putting a serious crimp in their NCAA tournament hopes. They needed a signature victory like this on their resume.
“It gives us hope,” Eikmeier said. “But at the same time, we are still humble because of our last two games. We know how bad we can be. We know how good we can be.”
The good version of the Rams certainly showed up Saturday. They set a conference record by going 23 for 23 at the foul line.
“Feels good,” Bell said. “But we have to build on it. We can't build our whole season on this.”
Jamaal Franklin had 24 points and 10 rebounds for the Aztecs, who had their 11-game winning streak snapped. Chase Tapley, the conference's leading scorer, was held to 10 points. He was averaging 16.4.
“We got beat by a better basketball team today. I don't think they're a better basketball team, but they were today,” San Diego State coach Steve Fisher said. “They beat us. We were not productive with our offense.”
No, the Aztecs certainly weren't, shooting just 31 percent from the field. Xavier Thames, James Rahon and Tapley were a combined 6 for 36.
Colorado State's swarming defense had something to do with that. Playing man-to-man defense all game, the Rams were constantly pestering San Diego State's outside shooters, hardly ever giving them a clear look.
“I think we caught them on a bad shooting game, which helped,” Miles said. “That's why we were able to extend. If they had been a little hotter, it could have been an unbelievable game.”
Colorado State led by as many as 18 points midway through the second half, then weathered a late surge by San Diego State, which hadn't lost since Nov. 30 against Creighton. The Aztecs turned up the pressure and whittled the deficit to 12 with 4:11 remaining.
That's when the Rams became more deliberate on offense, draining time off the clock and waiting for the Aztecs to foul them. Colorado State hit 12 free throws down the stretch to end a nine-game skid against San Diego State.
“This is a start in the right direction,” Miles said.
When ranked in The Associated Press poll, the Aztecs have been very successful against unranked teams, entering this game with a 38-0 mark. But they just never found their shooting touch.
Part of that may have been due to their arduous traveling adventures earlier in the week. Because of heavy snow, it took San Diego State 20 hours to arrive in Laramie, Wyo., for a game Tuesday night against the Cowboys.
After beating Wyoming 52-42, the Aztecs chartered a flight and flew back home, not wanting to miss any more class time than necessary. Then they returned to the Front Range to face Colorado State.
Not that the Aztecs were looking for a convenient excuse.
“I'm not going to place the blame on us traveling. We understand how our conference is and the climates,” forward Tim Shelton said. “That's not the reason at all.”
At intermission, the Rams introduced new football coach Jim McElwain, who is beginning to settle into the role after helping Alabama win a national championship as offensive coordinator. McElwain led the football team onto the court to a rousing ovation.
Turned out, it was merely an appetizer, setting the stage for the main course — an upset as the fans spilled onto the floor in their free T-shirts.
“This is a big win for our program,” said Eikmeier, who made eight free throws. “But at the same time, we've got to build off of this. We have to keep playing like this.”