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Colorado State 72 – Sacramento State 61

November 11, 2017

Hoops is back!

The Rams began the 2017-18 regular season on an 11-0 run and looked to be merrily on their way to a laugher. Che Bob, Anthony Bonner, Prentiss Nixon, and JD Paige all placed their names on the scoresheet and big Nico Carvacho was controlling the paint.

But something happened on the blowout path as both Bob and Carvacho were sent to the bench with 2 fouls each inside the first 8 minutes. The kind of situation that can turn a win into a loss in the early season as a team looks to find its identity and rhythm.

And while Sacramento State gradually clawed back into the game and pushed into the lead at 28-26 late in the first half, the Rams responded well to the adversity created by foul trouble.

Nixon and Paige were providing the leadership and effort. Off the bench came Deion James, a highly touted forward from the junior college ranks. James has been adjusting to the new level of play and quickly joined the fray, scoring 6 and grabbing 5 board. Guard Raquan Mitchell, another junior college transfer, played with bounce and energy. Guard Robbie Berwick, a transfer from Florida State, added intelligent play on both ends.

Berwick countered the Hornet lead with an immediate parry into the paint and the Rams held a 2-point lead as the halftime buzzer sounded.

A small lead for sure but not one of discomfort. The Rams had held it together. The type of play that can be built upon.

And when the second half began with Carvacho and Bob back on the floor, the game turned much the way as the game had started as the Rams ran out to an early 8-point lead. CSU was attacking the rim on the offensive end and guarding with a bit more energy on the defensive end, forcing the visitors into miss after miss.

And then we got a look at where this team is really headed.

Deion James returned to the game in place of Bonner and the Rams had a lineup on the floor of Carvacho, James, Bob, Nixon, and Paige. Size, speed, athleticism. The Rams pushed the lead into double digits and held it there, trading baskets and misses with their tiring opponents. Berwick and Bonner also were involved as each of them had successful trips to the rim.

With about 6 minutes left, a decision was made to go small to counter a smaller Sacramento State lineup. Carvacho and Bob went to the bench. The decision backfired as the Hornets cut the deficit to 7 and it was almost a game. Not to worry though as Bob and Carvacho reentered and veterans Nixon and Paige took charge to finish the game off.

From the scoreboard perspective, it was not a resounding win. From the perspective of a team developing in the early season, it was a very good win. The Rams had overcome adversity of foul trouble. They were forced into played new combinations and they were successful. They did it with sound defense and solid ball movement offensively, creating lots of good looks but probably missed more than they will down the road. The Rams were far from perfect but they displayed a solid foundation to build upon.

Prentiss Nixon led the way with 16 points and JD Paige threw in 15. Deion James finished with 10 and 8. Bob with 8 and 10. And while Carvacho struggled to finish at the rim, he was a beast on the glass with 15 boards and generally controlled the paint on the defensive end.

Paige had drawn the guard on Sacramento State’s Justin Strings, a beast of a scorer at 6’7″ and 220 pounds. Strings scored a game-high 19 points but it took 22 shots as Paige made him uncomfortable and forced him into misses when attacked in the low block.

One final thought

A very simple one.

Prentiss Nixon and JD Paige are absolute rocks. I am going to enjoy watching them from Row 7 this season.

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