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Colorado State 72 – Colorado 58

December 1, 2016

If you follow this blog you know that I dont ordinarily report when I’m not able to witness the game in person.  But this was no ordinary game and the result was truly extraordinary.

There’s no need to do a blow-by-blow account.  You can read the papers for that.

The Rams won because they were relentless and tough for 40 minutes.  Tough is a word that can be overused. Its not as simple as getting a rebound in traffic, diving for a loose ball.  

It is much more than the physical act.  Toughness has a strong mental component as well.

And the Rams were mentally tough enough to stay committed to their style of basketball. A style which is dependent on tough and active team defense.  This Ram team defends beautifully on the perimeter, led by JD Paige, Prentiss Nixon, and Devocio Butler and most recently Anthony Bonner.  They held a strong perimeter shooting CU squad to 3-19.  They are active in the paint, aggressively going after an missed shot. And while they were outrebounded by CU last night, they were not out-determined.  Offensively, the Rams are not a good shooting team but they move the ball, limit turnovers, and aggressively attack the hoop which gets them to the free throw line.

The Rams won the game because they stayed true to who they are! That aint easy on the road in front of a loud and boisterous crowd.

I would be remiss if I didnt comment on the performances of Devocio Butler and Anthony Bonner off the bench.  

While the rest of the team had made contributions early in the season, both Butler and Bonner were struggling.  But last week CSU hosted what are known as cupcakes. Three of them.  The type of games that you are expected to win in blowouts. But the coaching staff, rather than using the games to run up scores, used those 40 minutes to strengthen the team by playing different rotations that included a good number of minutes for both Butler and Bonner.

The final of the first cupcake game was much closer than expected. But it didnt matter. I was so encouraged by what I saw that I commented to another serious fan that the win was good because both Butler and Bonner had gained some traction. Their development continued through the next two games.

So it was no surprise when Devocio Butler scored 13 points and Anthony Bonner scored 6 points off the bench last night. 19 points between them. 9 more than the entire CU bench.

The loss of Gian Clavell was a blow.  But rather than treating it as a setback, the team has moved on to make themselves better. More minutes for players like Bonner and Butler and they have responded beautifully.

I would also be remiss if I didnt comment on the emergence of sophomore guard JD Paige as the quiet leader of this team.  

Emanuel Omogbo is arguably the best player on the team, but Paige has emerged as the calming force on the floor that gets the offense and defense organized. It was no surprise that the two biggest plays down the stretch came from JD.

The first was what looked like a Buff steal at midcourt when the Ram lead had been cut to 4.  Paige immediately stole the ball back and drove hard to the rim, scoring a beautiful backhand reverse layup, pushing the lead back to 6.

And a few minutes later, Paige calmly drilled a three-ball at the end of the shot clock to push a Ram lead to 60-51 with about 3 minutes remaining.  Not quite game, set, match but HUGE!

The Rams had scored a famous road victory over a Top 50 team.  An important resume builder for March.  But more importantly, they had played 40 minutes for themselves,their fans, and the name on the front of their jerseys.  

That name is Colorado State.

One final thought…

CU is a very talented squad.  They would also be very high up in the hairstyle rankings.  Most of their players have really pretty hair.  If hair could make a free throw, a perimeter shot, get a stop without fouling, CU would have a shot at going undefeated.

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