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Rams KO Utah Valley 92-61

December 2, 2019

The message from coach to the team was simple.

Coming off a solid tournament where they had won games over Loyola-Chicago and Washington State and lost a tough OT game to New Mexico State, Coach Niko Medved made it loud and clear to his team that there was no excuse to take the visitors from Utah lightly. There would be no looking ahead to the MWC home opener on Wednesday vs. San Diego State. They were to focus on the dangerous Wolverines who were good enough to have played Top 10 Kentucky virtually dead even for 33 minutes before succumbing by 8.

The Rams took the message of their head coach to heart and proceeded to knock the Wolverines out in the first half, playing their best basketball of the year in the process.

They began the game well but after 4 minutes were tied at 9, having given up 4 of those points on second chances from offensive rebounds by the visitors. In came subs Hyron Edwards and David Roddy. In another minute, backup center Dischon Thomas replaced Nico Carvacho.

And then it happened.

The Rams exploded on the type of run that fans and coaches dream about, as they played extraordinary halfcourt defense and executed their offense with precision.

31-5 over the next 12 minutes

Three of the visitors points coming on a desperation heave from 30 feet at the end of the shot clock.

Triggered offensively by freshman Thomas nailing elbow jumpers and senior Edwards’ parries into the paint (the two combined for 14 points). Triggered by forcing the visitors into awkward shots and finishing defensive possessions with rebounds. Triggered by pressure resulting in turnovers that created transition layups and three’s.

The half would come to a close and while the Rams ran to the locker room, the visitors had to be scraped off the canvas.

All that remained to see was whether the Rams could play the second half at the same level. Having dropped the previous home game after leading by 17 in the second half, the Rams had a point to prove and prove it they did.

They carried the defensive intensity of the first half into the second, they continued to attack the paint offensively. They subbed liberally in the second half and walk-on guard Kyle Lukasiewicz delivered the final punch with a three-ball to conclude the pummeling.

Thomas led the way with a career-high 18 on 7-8 shooting, mostly from the mid-range. Freshmen Roddy and Isaiah Stevens and senior Kris Martin each chipped in 10. Carvacho was a point short of a double-double with 9 and 10. Adam Thistlewood also had 9 and guard PJ Byrd, in his first action with the Rams, delivered 8. And there was no scoring line better than what Hyron Edwards did off the bench – 6 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals and 0 turnovers in 21 minutes.

Everybody scored but it was the connected effort of the Rams who had fulfilled their billing of Team Together on the defensive end of the floor and delivered a master class for their fans. They had heeded their coach’s instruction of focusing on the now and taken another step in their growth as a team.

Other Stuff

First person I talked to after the game was grad assistant Joe De Ciman. I commented on how well the Rams had shot the basketball on short to mid-range jumpers. He fired back “So much for analytics”, a reference to modern offensive strategies based on analytics that says its all about layups and three-balls.

Thomas’ 18-point performance was another brick in the foundation that CSU’s fabulous freshman class is building. Guard Isaiah Stevens has been a regular in double figures all season and forward David Roddy has recently become a consistent double-figure scorer. Add in freshman wing John Tonje’s 6 points and these freshmen produced 44 points in today’s win.

It was a bit of a dunk contest in the second half as Kris Martin, David Roddy, and John Tonje all delivered at the rim. Martin’s was a breakaway where he finished forcefully off of two feet. Tonje’s was off a pass from Thomas that required him to explode in tight defensive quarters and flush. But the dunk of the night was Roddy’s who converted a 2-on-1 break with Kendle Moore with a violent dunk through defensive contact, drawing a foul.

At one point in the first half, Nico Carvacho had 0 points but had delivered 5 rebounds and 5 assists. The master of the double-double was tracking for a unique double-double in rebounds and assists. I talked with Nico about it after the game. While he wouldn’t get there, it served as a window into what this team is all about. An All-MWC player focused on winning basketball, not just scoring.

And finally, I spent the second half sitting next to the grandfather of Kyle Lukasiewicz, a walk-on who joined the Rams this year. He doesnt get a lot of playing time but is a wonderful example of what this team is about. He is a hard-working member of the scout team, making the others better in practice. He would have been good enough to play more minutes on last year’s team but with the depth of this year’s squad, those minutes aren’t there for Kyle. When Kyle nailed the three-ball late in the game, it was exciting for me too because I got to experience the pride felt by his grandparents,

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