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Colorado State 78 – Fresno State 62

February 12, 2017

Just 24 days earlier, the Rams had traveled to Fresno to take on the Bulldogs.  The Rams suffered what was easily their worst defeat of the season as Fresno State scored a huge 78-57 win.

After the game, Coach Larry Eustachy pretty much wrote off the loss.  He also in not so many words stated that his Rams team would beat the Bulldogs in their rematch in Fort Collins.  At the time the Rams had just suffered two double-digit losses and it seemed like an empty promise compromised of hot air.

It wasnt.

Eustachy was 100% right.

Because on this Saturday afternoon in Moby in front of the biggest and most boisterous crowd of the MWC schedule, the Rams scored their 3rd straight double-digit win as the effectively shut down the Bulldogs with stifling half-court defense, a lesson in tempo control, and timely shooting.

As in many previous games, the Rams were cold from the field at the start. They fell behind 11-6 but it wasnt a big deal as they were shooting only 16%.  They were forcing Fresno into turnovers and you could feel that if that could continue and the shooting turned around, CSU would get it turned around.  

Everyone expected it to be Emmanuel Omogbo and Gian Clavell to start them on their way back. But Clavell was cold and Omogbo was on the bench with 2 fouls.

And up stepped JD Paige, the rangy 6’4″ guard from Denver. A corner three, a deep three late in the clock, another three from the top of the key. And when he closed the half with another corner three, he had brought the Rams into a 31-29 lead at the buzzer 

(Well kind of. More on that later)

Those of us who cheer on the Rams had seen this script before.  The Rams were doing lots right but needed to do a better job getting to the rim offensively while continuing their outstanding D.  They have been a second half team all year and there was no reason to believe they wouldnt find a way to win.

And once again the Rams exploded in the second half. They attacked the rim, they continued to defend, they made perimeter shots, they rebounded like crazy.  An early burst had pushed the lead to 47-36 at the under 12 media timeout. 

And then it was Gian Clavell time.

The 6’4″ senior has easily been playing his best ball on both ends of the floor.  After a rough go at Moby against New Mexico and the rough one in Fresno, he has elevated his game and his on court leadership to propel the Rams to the top group in the MWC standings.

And it would be no different on this night as Clavell ran off 13 points in a span of 4  minutes.  That 47-36 lead grew to 66-43 and it was game, set, match.

The last bucket was a long-range three that was a microcosm on how this CSU team plays. A defensive deflection by Omogbo, a steal by Koelliker, a long pass to Omogbo, a save through the legs by Omogbo, a catch and pass by Nixon, a catch and handoff by Koelliker, a 30-footer by Clavell.  SWISH!  All taking place in about 5 seconds.

Here’s a link to the video. The play described comes at the end of the highlights:

The only drama left would be if walk-on Juan Sabino would score.  He wouldnt. He did fill up the stat sheet with a steal and a pair of turnovers in the final minute.

At games end, the final score flattered the visitors. The Rams had curbed the Dogs.

One More thought…

This team is growing.  Its taken a bit of time to find a style that works with a 7-player rotation. WHile they have hung their collective hats on the defensive end and on the glass, they have had to learn how to temper their individual desires to play fast on the offensive end and tempo the game down.  Some opponents dont have the athletes to speed the Rams up.  Fresno very definitely has the athletes and they were a formidable foe for the way the Rams need to play in order to win.And the Rams handled it.

Credit needs to go to Larry Eustachy and his staff who have helped this team find a formula that works and the ability to manage the game in a way to maintain that style on a consistent basis.

And credit needs to go to these seven players who have committed to playing together.  My wife said something to me after yesterday’s game and it really rang true.  She said “Those players really talk to each other during the game. I think that really helps.”

The Rams are now 9-4 in the MWC and sit a game out of first.  These seven guys really are magnificent.

One final thought…

As promised, I have to mention a decision by an official at the end of the half.  After JD Paige nailed the three-ball and the buzzer sounded, this ref decided to call a technical foul on JD Paige for unsporting behavior.  Paige was a bit worked up and no doubt frustrated by a horrible foul call just 30 seconds earlier and evidently stared at the official.  The official took it upon himself to call a technical, rather than approaching Paige and talking to him.

It was the single worst case of officiating I think I’ve ever seen in my life.  The officials name was Brent Dumas. I dont think Ive ever seen him call a game in Moby. His partners were Dick Cartmell and Kevin Brill, two veteran refs.  You could sense that both Cartmell and Brill were embarrassed by the decision of their fellow official.

Clown ref Brent Dumas explains his decision to Larry Eustachy

After the New Mexico game, MWC Commissioner Craig Thompson announced a zero tolerance policy for behavior.  I would hope that zero tolerance would apply to horrible officiating but I know it wont.

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