Colorado State players say they couldn't imagine what the season might have become if standout guard Daniel Bejarano had decided to have knee surgery before New Year's Day.

Or perhaps Bejarano's teammates did imagine it.

"Daniel knows that this team without him, we would be nothing," said junior forward J.J. Avila.

Bejarano took one for the team. He felt sharp pain in his left knee during a game in December. An MRI revealed a partial tear of the meniscus. A 6-foot-4 junior, Bejarano was given two options: Have surgery immediately, which would have ended his season, or try to play through the pain and delay the surgery until the season was over.

"I felt like my teammates needed me," he said. "I told them, 'Hey, I'll pop some Advil before the game and just go play.' "

Although the injury limited some of Bejarano's explosiveness, he ranked sixth among Mountain West players in scoring (16.7) during the regular season and led all guards in rebounding (8.4). In conference play, Bejarano averaged 18.8 points, second best to New Mexico star Cameron Bairstow (20.4).

"Daniel's knee is hurting," said CSU coach Larry Eustachy. "The fact that he put off surgery to keep playing says a lot about him."

Ninth-seeded CSU (16-15, 7-11 Mountain West) plays No. 8 Utah State (17-13, 7-11) at 3 p.m. Wednesday in the first round of the Mountain West Tournament in Las Vegas.

CSU lost both regular-season meetings with Utah State this year.

"We're confident," said Bejarano, who Monday was named to the all-Mountain West second team. "We've shown we have the talent to beat anybody in this league."

Eustachy said he loves coaching Bejarano, but it didn't appear that way during the Rams' Feb. 1 loss at San Diego State. Just three minutes into the game, Bejarano and Eustachy engaged in a heated argument during a timeout. At one point, Bejarano had to be restrained by an assistant coach.