On a night of upsets in college basketball, the biggest of the giant-killers was Colorado State.
Before Thursday night, CSU was a .500 team struggling for some consistency in the Western Athletic Conference. Then the Rams' program got the boost it sought.
With Mike Gray scoring 19 points, Colorado State pulled off the surprise of the WAC season by beating fourth-ranked Texas-El Paso 63-51 at Fort Collins, Colo. The loss was the first of the season for UTEP, which fell to 15-1. CSU upped its record to 8-7 overall and 2-1 in the WAC.
CSU coach Tony McAndrews, in his fourth season, said, 'This is the biggest win of my coaching career at Colorado State. I was concerned this afternoon when we shot around. Our practices had not been that emotional. I was concerned if we were ready mentally. But when I came into the locker room tonight I felt we were ready to play.
'We had a lot of poise tonight. Our inside people really wanted the ball, plus we hit free throws down the stretch when we had to. I'm hopeful this kind of game is what we needed to win. I just hope we do not have a mental letdown. We will certainly enjoy this win and our effort tonight.'
The score was tied 23-23 at the half. In the second half, the Rams made 20 of 26 foul shots and were 31-for-45 for the game.
For CSU, Scott Mann and Todd Benn scored 12 each and Rich Strong and John Dudley added 10 each. Fred Reynolds, seeing the most playing time since he injured his back three weeks ago, led UTEP with 12 points.
Miners coach Don Haskins, whose team is saddled with injuries, said, 'I told everyone we were limping around. We've played a lot better game than this, but they (CSU) had a lot to do with it. I tried to explain that to the players. We've played like that before and managed to win.'
In three other major upsets, Washington State toppled No. 10 Oregon State 74-65, Illinois State stunned No. 12 Tulsa 79-73, and Cal-Irvine turned the tables on No. 15 Fresno State 63-57.
At Pullman, Wash., Ricky Brown scored 13 of his 18 points in the first half, leading Washington State in a Pac-10 Conference game. The Cougars, returning home after a nine-game road trip, got out to an early lead before the Beavers fought back and tied it. But WSU was able to put it away with about two minutes left. The loss dropped Oregon State to 9-3. Washington State is 8-6.
At Tulsa, Okla., Michael McKenney scored 26 points as Illinois State upset previously unbeaten Tulsa in a Missouri Valley Conference game. The Redbirds are 4-0 in conference play and 12-3 overall. The Golden Hurricane is 4-1 and 15-1. Tulsa entered the game leading the nation in scoring, averaging almost 95 points per game.
At Irvine, Calif., the Anteaters used the kind of pressure defense for which Fresno State is known to beat the Bulldogs in a Pacific Coast Athletic Association game. Four Irvine players scored in double figures, led by George Turner with 17 points. UCI upped its record to 8-7 overall and 4-2 in the PCAA. Fresno State dropped to 11-4 and 2-2.
In other games involving ranked teams, No. 8 Nevada-Las Vegas routed Pacific 117-78, No. 11 UCLA pounded California 76-54, and No. 19 Arkansas held off Texas 70-66.
At Las Vegas, Nev., senior Jeff Collins scored 24 points to lead the Runnin' Rebels, who are 15-1 and 6-0 in PCAA play. Joining Collins in double figures were Richie Adams with 18, John Flowerrs with 13 and Frank James with 11. UNLV hit 64 percent from the floor in the first half.
At Los Angeles, Stuart Gray scored 16 points and grabbed 14 rebounds to lead UCLA to a Pac-10 victory. It was the Bruins' 49th consecutive triumph over the Bears in a streak dating nearly 23 years. The victory improved UCLA's record to 11-2 overall and 4-1 in the conference.
At Austin, Texas, Scott Rose hit two jumpers in the final seconds to stop a Texas surge and carry the Razorbacks to a triumph in a Southwest Conference game. The Razorbacks led 45-27 at the half before the Longhorns pulled to 68-66 on a jumper by Karl Willock. Melvin Robertson led Arkansas, 14-2 and 5-0, with 23 points.