BOULDER, Colo. -- An imperfect finish didn't prevent Colorado State from extending its perfect start to the season.
"This team is just a whole different cat than they were last year," Colorado State coach Larry Eustachy said. "It's a great win, something we can build on. The great thing is we can get a lot better. . We tried a lot of ways to lose it. I'm just proud of our guys."
Xavier Johnson scored a season-high 20 points to lead the Buffaloes, whose streak of home wins against non-conference opponents was snapped at 23 games. It was the first loss at home of the season for Colorado, which also got 18 points from Askia Booker.
"Every loss hurts," Booker said. "This was our quote-unquote main rival, and we just lost in our own house so they have bragging rights for this state."
Trailing by two at the break, the Rams put together a 9-4 burst, capped by Avila's three-point play to move in front 49-44 with 9:24 left to play.
Josh Scott, Colorado's leading scorer coming into the game with a 16.6 average, got his first points on a pair of free throws pulling the Buffaloes to 51-49 with 6:24 remaining.
But the Rams got successive layups from Avila and Bejarano around a Colorado turnover before Avila hit another layup to extend the Rams' lead to 57-49 with 4:28 left to play.
Booker hit a jumper and 3-pointer to make it close again before De Ciman connected on a 3-pointer to give the Rams a 6-point cushion with 1:46 remaining.
"I think Joe's 3 was the game, really," Eustachy said. "That was huge. We couldn't keep them off the boards. We just couldn't do what we were supposed to be able to do."
Eustachy conceded he didn't feel the game was locked up until Bejarano's game-sealing rebound.
"It's an awesome feeling," Avila said. "Everybody came in and just grinded it out."
Colorado State missed just enough free throws down the stretch to allow the Buffaloes to creep back into the game. With 2.2 seconds remaining and the Rams clinging to a three-point edge, Johnson was fouled going for a rebound. He made the first free throw and deliberately missed the second but Bejarano came away with the rebound, running to half court to run out the last couple of seconds and then tossing the ball in the air to celebrate the victory over their intrastate rival.
"That was a very disappointing loss," said Colorado coach Tad Boyle. "I take ownership as the head coach. We didn't finish that game out, didn't make enough plays down the stretch. We've got a lot of things to work on."
Colorado State: The Rams played their first true road game of the season. They have five wins at home and took all three games at the Great Alaska Shootout. . J.J. Avila has scored in double figures in all nine games this season.
Colorado: Freshman guard Dominique Collier missed the game with a sprained wrist suffered in last Sunday's loss at Georgia. . Josh Scott and Xavier Talton have started all nine games for the Buffaloes, who have used four different starting combinations.
Colorado State: hosts Arkansas-Fort Smith on Saturday.
Colorado: hosts Northern Colorado on Saturday.
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