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Colorado State 75 – UNLV 57

February 6, 2014

In what is arguably their most complete performance of the 2013-14 season the Rams chilled one of the hottest teams in the Mountain West.

The Rebels were riding high on a 4-game winning streak which included a road win over New Mexico and most recently a comeback win over Boise State. The Rams on the other hand were riding a three-game bender with all three losses coming against the top 3 teams in the current standings.

You would probably be lying if you said you saw this one coming. But you wouldn’t be lying if you said you had been waiting for the Rams to put together 40 minutes of their effort, which has been their M.O. all year and combine it with 50% shooting from the field, which has been about as regular as a Sasquatch sighting this season in Moby.

And boy did they make it look easy as they trailed only once at 4-2 early in the game, before breaking it open about halfway through the first half, on a pair of three point trips by JJ Avila (one the hard way, the other from beyond the arc)

It was all about execution of a game plan that was well-conceived.

On offense, the Rams crisply ran their motion on the perimeter to draw the Rebels’ big center Khem Birch to defend the ball on the perimeter. That created openings for the Rams to drive the ball into the paint and either finish at the rim or kick out for open three-balls. They settled less for short runners as they fought their way all the way to the glass to either finish or draw fouls. And they did it with very few turnovers against a team that is very good at funneling the ball toward their shot blockers.

Defensively, they played tough straight-up man-to-man with assignments which included some yeoman work denying the post by bigs Gerson Santo,and Marcus Holt. They took away much of the Rebels perimeter game and midrange game by through effective match ups and toughness.

The lead was 41-28 at the half and the Rams never let the Rebels any closer as they came out of the locker room with the same focus they had started with and continued the clinic. They ran out to a 20+ point margin before emptying the bench in the final minute.

And when it was over, it was hugs all around as the starters came off the course. And the best was saved for the hug between Coach Larry Eustachy and Daniel Bejarano, who had a falling out during the last game at San Diego State. It was warm way to send the Moby faithful out into the sub-zero temperatures.

More thoughts…

I cannot say enough about how the coaching staff had the team prepared for this game nor enough about the game management as well. Larry Eustachy and crew have continually had their team prepared to play as well as they could be. Combine that with great use of the bench, timeouts, out of bounds plays with timeouts, etc. It’s fun to watch players on top of their games. It’s also fun to watch coaching on top of its game too.

As for UNLV, they are very talented but I am so glad I don’t have to watch them night-in and night-out. They are mechanical on offense and lazy on defense, relying on their individual abilities with very little team energy. That falls on their coaching staff. I talked to a few fans after the game. One called Rebels’ Head Coach Dave Rice the worst in the league. Another thought that UNLV players played as if they were trying to get their coach fired.

Regardless, I am grateful to have a staff in Fort Collins that gets a team to play with great effort night in and night out.

Carlton Hurst was amazing off the bench last night as he played great D and finished 5-5 from the field, all great finishes at the rim. He made them look easy. They weren’t. Several of them were over Khem Birch, the reigning MWC Defensive Player of the Year.

Daniel Bejarano finished with 24 points, 10 rebounds, and 7 assists and may have threatened pulling off a triple double if the Rams hadn’t started to take the air out of the ball with 11 minutes to go. He scored on a few bombs but his best hoops came as he attacked the rim, the prettiest of which was an and-1 that he banked in from high off the glass.

While,Bejarano and Hurst stood out, every other Ram played fast, tough,and hard. There were so many good plays throughout the game made that they are impossible to list. A great alley by Avila for an oop dunk by Santo was one. A pair of really tough rebounds by Jon Octeus, one on the offensive end immediately followed by one on the defensive end that quashed any hopes that UNLV had of a comeback.

and one last though…

I have been all over this team for their poor shooting. I have only questioned their effort once, the home loss vs. Denver. My frustration as a fan has really been more about them not being rewarded for their efforts. I was happy as a fan to watch last night. but I am even happier for them as they saw the result of what can happen when they put the ball in the basket. I’ve never seen a team lose so close on nights when they shoot 30-35%. Last night was a living testament to the potential of this team to really win games.

And it fueled hopes for a run up the standings over the second half of the MWC schedule.

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