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Listless Rams Lose to South Dakota At Home 68-63

December 16, 2018

You don’t need to know much about this one so I won’t waste your time or mine.

If you didn’t already know, I gave up my seats in the lower bowl of Moby after 15 years for budgetary reasons.

Late in the game my wife turned to me and asked if I was disappointed to have even spent any money on season tickets this year. My answer was of course not because I love the game.

So I watch from up high.

And I feel like I’m watching a team that is taking the court high.

That walk the ball up the court, they don’t cut with any purpose, they defend as if they’re afraid of any contact, they sleep on the defensive boards. And they reach softly for 50/50 balls.

The 2018-19 record fell to 5-6 with the loss. I’m having flashbacks to 2007-08 when the Rams didn’t win a home game after Christmas.

I’m not going to stop showing up and I’m not going to stop cheering.

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Arkansas steamrolls their way to 98-74 win over CSU in Moby

December 6, 2018

You always have hope when a visitor of the quality of Arkansas comes into your building. Sure the opponents are a Top 5 program coming off an NCAA Tournament experience. Sure the visitor’s were 6-1 with an OT loss to Texas as their only blemish. Sure they were big, strong, and fast. And sure they are led by Mike Anderson, whose mentor was legendary coach Nolan Richardson, the man responsible for developing a style known as 40 minutes of Hell.

Your hope is based on being able to slow the other team down, Hold them to one shot attempt, and then execute an error-free offense that scores both inside and out.

Arkansas tried to dash those hopes early as they ran out to a 12-2 lead fueled entirely by hot shooting from beyond the arc. The Rams responded with a pair of JD Paige three balls and it was game on.

The visitor’s count Reed with an extended 20-7 run over the next seven minutes, scoring quickly in transition with accurate perimeter shooting and inside with power at the rim. The game was on its way to a blowout but somehow the Rams clawed back, led by Anthony Masinton-Bonner from the perimeter. They cut the Arkansas lead to 8, but a final 3-ball sent the Hogs into the half with a comfortable lead.

The visitor’s came out of the locker room hot as a pistol from the perimeter and then started to use star Big Daniel Gafford who proceeded to bully his way against Nico Carvacho and any help the Rams could muster. It was to no avail and the lead grew to 65-43.

At that point, the smallest man on the floor, CSU frosh guard Kendle Moore decided he had enough of watching his fellow teammates repeatedly fail to score at the rim. Moore was determined to get there and it was his energy and polish at the rack that launched the Rams on their finest run of the year.

It began with a Moore three-ball and ended with a fearless Moore layup high off the glass and in between there was plenty of accurate shooting by Kris Martin, Masinton-Bonner, and Adam Thistlewood.

A 17-2 run over less than three minutes and the Rams were seemingly back in touch trailing 67-60 and the crowd became loud and once again hopeful.

Anderson called a timeout and designed a simple play that resulted in a Gafford dunk. The interior attacks continued and the next thing you know the Hogs had gone on a 13-0 run and pushed their lead back to 20. The onslaught continued as the visitor’s closed the game out with solid shooting and bullying defense at the rim.

A disappointing finish for the Rams but not unexpected given their shortcomings on the defensive end, especially around the rim. A big strong, athletic group came in and big-boyed their lunch money from them. The Rams were outrebounded by double digits, had 6 shots blocked and were not strong enough to finish multiple dunk attempts through contact.

The game wasn’t without positives. The Rams had handled Arkansas’ pressure D well-enough to have the best turnover percentage of any Hog opponent to date. They had aggressively attacked the paint and were more effective getting to the free throw line that any previous opponent.

Kendle Moore and JD Paige would lead the way with 16 points each. Masinton-Bonner, Carvacho, and Thistlewood would all score in double figures.

The Rams’ effort may have been inconsistent but give the opponents credit for staying true to their fast, physical, and skilled brand of basketball . A brand that killed off any hope the Rams may have had.

Don’t forget – Hope is a little town in Arkansas.

Ball Movement and Stifling Defense Lead CSU Women to 65-54 Win Over Northern Arizona

December 5, 2018

I haven’t written about the CSU Womens hoops team in awhile. That’s on me. While I haven’t been able to make it to games because of work, but I also had avoided blogging the home loss vs. Northern Colorado which I had attended. That was a disappointing game that the Rams were in control of until a total offensive breakdown in the 4th quarter.

And that was after several lackluster performances where limited depth, inexperience, and a lack of effort were making it difficult.

But this one was different than the previous games in Moby. With several games under their belt, this young and inexperienced team finally showed life on both ends of the floor.

The calling card of Ryun Williams’ coached teams is defense and this team is starting to get it. They showed a 2-3 zone with activity at the top and physical play along the back line.

At the same time, they were executing a new offense that had just been installed and the ball movement was the best it has been all year. The Rams were missing shots but they were creating plenty of them and many were good looks.

The combination of the two launched the Rams into a 15-7 first quarter lead. They had held the visitors from Flagstaff to 11% shooting. The onslaught continued early in the second quarter as the Rams ran off to a 29-12 lead midway through the quarter. A rout looked to be forthcoming but the visitor’s were having no part of it. The Rams offense bogged down, the Lumberjacks warmed up, and next thing you know the gap was closed to 8.

Lore Devos, the Rams’ leading scorer had been held in check but the rest of the team picked her up with balanced scoring.

The second half continued much the way the first half ended as the visitors stayed hot from the perimeter. Devos was heating up, scoring the Rams first 8 points of the quarter. The sophomore from Belgium was showing her prowess off the bounce as she was repeatedly finishing at or near the rim. It was enough to keep the Rams’ noses in front but the game was very much in the balance into the fourth quarter.

Devos stayed hot, the Defense stayed sticky, and when guard Mollie Mounsey finished off an and-1 inside of two minutes, the Rams looked to be home free as they led 59-51. All that remained was for them to close the game and they did so proficiently, converting free throws and forcing their opponents into forced shots from the perimeter after switching to a man-to-man defense.

Devos would finish with a game high 23 along with 8 rebounds and 5 assists. Mounsey was the only other Ram in double figures with 13, but the other seven who played all contributed on the score sheet.

All wins are good.

This one was especially good because of the execution and effort on both ends of the floor. They may be young, they may be inexperienced, but they are showing major signs of progress. Still plenty of room for growth.

Other Stuff

The game was played at a very unusual time of 11:30am on a Wednesday. It was to accommodate Poudre R-1 School District elementary students who showed up in droves. They were colorful and they were loud and bouncy. We were all laughing because of how loud it was.

I turned to a friend who is a retired elementary principal and said “At least you’re used to this.”

She replied “No. You never get used to it.”

Kudos to the CSU Athletic Department for organizing the event and definitely catering to the students during the entire game. The cheerleaders were active, representatives of the Men’s team (Joe De Ciman, Kris Martin, Jack Schoeman, and Deion James) led them in a Go Rams cheer at halftime.

The only thing they missed was not showing early pictures of CSU’s Myann Hamm on the video board. Myann is a home grown product who attended Beattie Elementary.

Finally…

The reason I love this coaching staff is their proficiency in trying and implementing new concepts. In This case, the new offense was put in following the most recent stretch of game where the Rams not only struggled to score but struggled just to get shots up. While the Rams only shot 39%, they managed to get 66 shots up, a total of about 12 above their average over the previous four games. I noticed how much better the ball movement was early in the game; I didn’t know anything about the change until post-game.

Southern Illinois 82 – Colorado State 67

November 28, 2018

The Salukis rolled into Fort Collins, lifted their legs, and marked Moby Arena as their own turf as they scored a solid road victory in a MVC-MWC Challenge game.

It was always going to be a tough test for the Rams as Southern Illinois features a starting lineup with 4 seniors and one junior. It proved to be even tougher on the home team who could best be described as listless on the defensive end of the floor.

Or maybe lethargic.

Or maybe uncommitted.

The Salukis jumped out to an early 11-4 lead, scoring easily at the rim. CSU had three early turnovers leading to easy points but they werent doing any better defending in the halfcourt either. A quick timeout by Coach Niko Medved and the Rams were barking at each other on their way to the bench.

The Rams forced their way back into the game via strong perimeter shooting, making 6 of their next 8 as they stormed to a 26-22 lead midway through the half. Extraordinary shooting on the offensive end for sure but the visitors were still having an easy time scoring at the rim.

And when CSU went to a zone defense for a few possessions late in the half to stem the Salukis interior scoring, the visitor’s immediately nailed 3 perimeter jumpers and forced their way to a 45-40 halftime lead.

The second half started brightly for the Rams as they scored easily on their first two possessions to close to 45-44 but it was the Salukis game from then on. They continued to score at the rim, they garnered virtually every loose ball and corralled virtually every rebounding opportunity.

The Rams were hovering close but a sequence midway through the half proved to be too much to overcome. The Rams were trailing 55-49 when Lorenzo Jenkins missed a layup at one end of the floor. The Rams got a stop and steal and we’re gone onan easy fast break but a careless pass led to a turnover and a wide open three-ball that the visitor’s buried. What could have been 55-53 was now 58-49 and when the Salukis followed it up with a 7-0 run shortly after, the lead had grown to 67-53 and it was game, set, match.

Sometimes statistics lie. Not this time. The Rams had played poorly on the defensive end and the Salukis shot 58% on the game, many of which were uncontested layups. The Rams struggled to gather any contested rebounds and the final margin of 34-17 truly represented the Saluki dominance on the glass.

Five Salukis scored double figures. Four Rams scored in double figures with Kris Martin and Anthony Masinton-Bonner leading the way with 15 each.

But the real story was that the Rams never had all 5 cylinders working in unison.

Before the game, I was asked by someone what I thought. I told them it would be the Rams’ toughest test to date and Center Nico Carvacho would have to play well.

He didn’t.

Neither did starter Lorenzo Jenkins who O-fered from the field.

The Rams don’t have a superstar so they need all 5 on the floor to be functioning well and functioning together. For a team to be successful, the whole must be greater than the sum of the parts.

On this night the whole was less than the sum. Give the Salukis credit for a great road win and causing the Rams to become disjointed in spots.

But it also comes down to commitment to making winning plays over the 94′. There was commitment to running their offensive sets crisply but that was it. The Rams were lackluster over the rest of the 94′. That is not a formula for winning basketball games.

Sometimes You Attend A Game and Really Get Your Money’s Worth

November 15, 2018

The essence of competition isnt based upon the quality of the teams that play, nor the expected differential in quality. And it isnt based upon what the analysis on paper yields.

Can you imagine that you buy a ticket to a game and when the ball is ready for play, a bunch of talking heads are sitting in the middle of the court and they begin to debate exactly what they expect to happen on the floor.

“Team A should dominate the glass”

“Team B loves to attack the rim and should feast at the free throw line based on the way Team A defends.”

Blah, blah, blah.

The talking heads talk and talk and talk until they reach a consensus and then declare one of the teams a winner. The game is over and the players shake hands.

Then put yourself in the seats of Moby last night for the match-up between Colorado State and Montana State.

The teams battled for 40 minutes and the margin between the two teams was never greater than 6 points. Back and forth they went and the margin yo-yo’ed. Certainly not a game for the faint of heart.

In the end the Rams prevailed but the real winners were the fans that got to experience it. Let me explain.

The foremost statistician in college basketball is a guy named Ken Pomeroy. He has statistics that describe all sorts of things related to teams’ style of play and individual stats that describe strengths and weaknesses.

Pomeroy has actually developed stats that rate games in terms of excitement, tension, dominance, and comeback. He goes on to say that fans got their money’s worth if they saw a game that has an Excitement Rating of greater than 1.

The CSU-MSU game last night yielded an excitement factor of 2.97. To put that into perspective, it was the highest number of any D-1 game played last night and the 14th highest of all D-1 games played this season.

Pomeroy also says that if the Excitement Factor falls to a negative value the fans should demand a refund. The lowest score last night you ask – Duke running Eastern Michigan off the floor earning a score of -.58. Which means that unless you were there to see Zion Williamson in Cameron you should get your money back.

The Tension Factor for last night’s CSU-MSU game was also the highest of the night and the 5th highest of any D-1 game played so far this season.

So what we got to see in Moby last night may not have been the highest in terms of quality and it probably won’t go down as a work of art.

But it was the essence of competition. Two teams battling it out and producing the highest levels of Excitement and Tension.

Just the type of game that makes you feel alive!

Rams Persevere Their Way To 81-77 Victory Over Montana State

November 15, 2018

On paper this game had blowout written all over it.

The home side had shot lights out in their first two games, romping their way to easy victories. The visitors from Bozeman had been thoroughly trounced in their D-1 match-ups with only a win over NAIA Presentation College (nickname the PowerPointers?).

But funny things happen sometimes between paper and hardwood.

How could you predict that the Rams would have trouble knocking down shots from the perimeter after shooting more than 50% in their first two games? That they would shoot 20% on 6 made three’s? How could you predict that Montana State would make 14 three-balls at a 40% clip over the course of the game when they have averaged about 6 makes at just over 25% in three prior games.

Think about that – a 24-point difference from beyond the arc!

And then you look at the work on the glass where CSU had been very average but Montana State had been worse than average coming into the game. Yet somehow the Bobcats had found a way to stay even with the Rams throughout the game.

The teams traded punches throughout the entire first half that ended with the Rams leading 34-32 but there were big concerns. Adam Thistlewood, the Rams’ top sub was saddled with three fouls. Big Niko Carvacho had picked up a couple of really marginal fouls as well. And when guard Anthony Masinton-Bonner had to be helped off the floor in the final minute, it became obvious this was a game that was very much in the balance, unlike the two earlier blowouts the Rams had played on their home floor.

And when the Rams started slowly and the Bobcats heated up, the mood of the game had taken an obvious turn toward the visitors as they repeatedly drained shots from the perimeter, scrapped for rebounds, and won the 50/50 balls.

The Rams continued to struggle from the perimeter but the guards were finding their way to the rim. Senior JD Paige was leading the way. Masinton-Bonner, gutting it out on an obviously painful ankle, and Kendle Moore also had successful parries to the rim. Center Niko Carvacho was giving the Bobcats fits underneath but foul trouble had him playing irregular minutes.

The Rams trailed 62-57 after a pair of Tyler Hall three-balls pushed the Bobcats to the front and forced Nike Medved to take a timeout. The Rams came out of the timeout flying, cut the deficit to one and forced a missed shot. But Montana State gathered the board, the ball came to Hall who drained another tough three-pointer.

That could have been a dagger.

The Rams could have hung their heads and figured that maybe it wasn’t their night.

They didnt.

They fought their way back with Paige scoring at the rim and tied the game inside of two minutes at 71 all. The Rams defended gamely and forced a turnover and quickly flew down the court. The ball came to Masinton-Bonner who immediately rose up and fired.

Swish!

Prior to that shot Bonner had been 0-4 from deep.

The Rams continued to defend, forcing misses and grabbing rebounds. Montana State was forced to foul and the Rams calmly put the game away when Carvacho, Paige, and Bonner each made a pair down the stretch.

Paige would finish with 23, Carvacho would record his 3rd straight double-double with 15 and 13. Bonner finished with 14 and Moore 11. Doobie Jenkins was the unsung hero, finishing the game with 12 points on 4-6 shooting from the perimeter; he had tried to show the Rams the way from outside but the rest of the team was 1-23 until Bonner’s game breaker. Montana State’s Hall finished with a game-high 30.

Yes the Rams had shot poorly. Yes they had spurts of shoddy defense and got worked on the glass. Give the opponents credit for some of that. But also give the Rams credit for taking care of the basketball because in the end it was the turnover margin (only 7 to MSU’s 15) that gave the Rams the possessions they needed to overcome the tremendous disparity in three-point shooting.

On a night where the Rams repeatedly had doors slamming shut in their faces, they didn’t take no for an answer and somehow managed to stick their foot into a small opening, forcing themselves all the way in when it mattered most.

Paper is just paper.

This was real. And it was good.

Rams In The Zone As They Roll To 92-67 Win Over Arkansas – Pine Bluff

November 11, 2018

With about 5 minutes remaining in the game, my wife turned to me and explained that she preferred close games against stronger opponents. While I agree with her in principle I have no problem with blowouts against weaker opponents when my team so obviously executes a game plan flawlessly.

And that’s what the Rams did in front of a small but energized Saturday matinee crown.

They knew that Arkansas-Pine Bluff would throw a 2-3 zone against them that got especially active when the ball was passed in the corner. And so they constructed an attack that attacked the Golden Lions from the high post and an attack that threw aggressive skip passes to open shooters when the traps came.

The main culprit in the high post attack was senior JD Paige who was returning to the lineup after serving a suspension in the opener. Paige was repeatedly fed exquisite passes and then he went to work patiently slicing and dicing the interior of the zone. He found Center Nico Carvacho trolling the baseline for easy finishes at the rim. When Pine Bluff sagged the the paint, he found open shooters like Anthony Bonner and Doobie Jenkins who were burying their three-balls.

At the same time, the Rams were playing solid man-to-man D and Carvacho was finishing off the defensive possessions on the glass, allowing them to kick their offense into gear.

The Rams ended the first half leading 47-28. They had 11 assists on 15 made baskets (Paige had 5 of them). Carvacho had 8 rebounds leading his team to a 21-14 margin on the glass. And the team had shot over 50% from the field, including 7-13 from beyond the arc.

But the best stat of all was 0 turnovers.

Let that sink in.

Pine Bluff has been 8th and 5th in the nation in Defensive Turnover Percentage over the past two seasons. They thrive on turnovers.

And the Rams put up a goose egg in the first stanza.

The home side began the second half much the same as they had played the first and before you knew it they had doubled up the visitor’s at 62-31. The game was in the bag and some comfort led to a touch of sloppy play where the focus changed to trying to stop Pine Bluff’s stud guard Martaveous McKnight. JD Paige had done a decent job on him in the first half but others including Bonner and frosh Kendle Moore got their opportunities and McKnight was having his way.

The bench started clearing in the final minutes and the final margin certainly flattered the visitor’s.

Carvacho led 6 Rams in double figures with 18 points and produced his second straight double-double with 11 rebounds. Paige and frosh Adam Thistlewood finished with 14 each, Paige’s mostly from the perimeter and Thistlewood from the charity stripe. Bonner finished with 13 and both Jenkins and Moore scored 10. The offense is flowing and characterized by unselfish play and features very few bad shots.

McKnight would finish with 41 of his team’s 67 points as he put on a show in the final half. Fun to watch but nowhere near enough as the Rams held the rest of the team to 9-31 shooting.

Once again the Rams had played unselfish, high energy ball and had left their faithful fans buzzing with joy and looking forward to games against stronger opponents.

Other Stuff

Freshmen Kendle Moore and Adam Thistlewood are playing big important minutes. And they are playing well. Moore is fast, a skilled ball handler, and possesses the ability to get all the way to the rim and accuracy from the perimeter. Thistlewood is smooth, a skilled shooter, and solid rebounder. But what stands out for both of them is their maturity. Sometimes freshmen have trouble executing a game plan. Not these two. They play with the savvy of upperclassmen. It’s reminiscent of Dorian Green and Pierce Hornung.

It was really good to have JD Paige back on the floor.