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Rams’ Rally Late to Drop South Dakota State 72-68

December 11, 2019

As a fan, it was an ordeal for 5 seconds short of 40 minutes.

It wasn’t until an open-court, two-handed flush by CSU’s Kris Martin in the final seconds that the outcome felt decided.

Ram fans were on pins and needles until then as both teams battled back and forth. One team would find its way into the lead, the other would battle back quickly. Then it would tilt in the other direction. The Rams’ largest lead in the first half was six; the Jackrabbits’ was 5. CSU went into the locker room at half leading by 1.

The Rams opened the lead immediately to 7 to start the second half but within minutes the visitors had reeled them in. Back and forth they went.

And then the Jackrabbits pushed their nose in front and when Matt Dentlinger nailed a short jumper off an open court turnover by CSU’s Kris Martin, the visitors had a 5-point lead with just over 3 minutes on the clock.

The Rams went to work digging into the lead. The comeback began with a Carvacho layup and a pair of missed free throws by the visitors. A short baseline jumper by Isaiah Stevens, a miss by the visitors, and then a layup by the Rams’ Kendle Moore pushed the Rams back into the lead at 67-66.

But when the Jax’ Dentlinger scored at the rim pushing his team into a 68-67 lead with under a minute left, it was officially conch time.

Stevens drove toward the lane, looked for Carvacho, but had the ball stolen. Jax’ timeout to figure out how they wanted to put the game away. The visitors had been fantastic the entire game at scoring out of timeouts. They ran the clock down and got close to what they wanted, a three-point attempt by Noah Friedel who had been 2-3 from deep until then. I say close because Friedel’s feet were probably a foot or two deeper than what he wanted. His shot careened off the back iron and was to begin the exciting final sequence.

The ball bounced high and deep and was grabbed by CSU’s jet quick Moore who pushed the ball hard into the forecourt. He saw his route to the basket cut off, noticed a trailing Adam Thistlewood, veered right and then dished the ball to Thistlewood.

Thistlewood immediately rose up from a spot on the wing about 5′ behind the three-point line. And drained the three-ball to give the Rams the lead at 70-68.

The game was anywhere but over. As mentioned before, the visitors had been fantastic drawing up plays in timeouts and it sure felt like OT was inevitable. They went for a runner in the paint which missed. Thistlewood grabbed the rebound, dished to Stevens, who somehow found a wide-open streaking Martin at midcourt and delivered the long pass.

With Carvacho trailing, Martin gathered and threw the ball down hard and the Rams had scored a hard-fought victory.

There were plenty of heroes for the Rams. The scoring was balanced, Carvacho with 12 (and 10 boards for yet another dub-dub), Martin 12, Moore 10. Freshmen Dischon Thomas, David Roddy, John Tonje, and Stevens combined for 26; Thomas delivered 8 in a row midway through the second half that was crucial when the Rams were struggling to find good shots. Hyron Edward had 4 points, 2 assists,3 steals in limited action. Thistlewood had 7 but was Thistlegood when it mattered.

But it wasnt a work of art as the Rams had struggled to defend the basketball, allowing easy penetration and scoring in the paint by the visitors. Combine that with poor free throw shooting (11-21 with Thomas going 4-4 to really skew it) and you had what a coach described to me post-game as a root canal.

The good news – the root canal was successful.

Other Stuff

This was always going to be a tough game. The Rams were coming off a tough week with a pair of conference games including a road trip to Boise on Saturday. NCAA limits weekly team time which meant the Rams would have little prep time for the visitors. To their credit, they looked ready to play. They just seemed to play with a lack of physicality such that they could never truly get themselves established. That edge will be much more important when the Buffs visit on Friday.

Speaking of the Buffs, they figured out a way to lose at home to a solid Northern Iowa squad. Mulligan Tad Boyle referred to the game as a trap game because it was sandwiched between a trip to Kansas and the upcoming game with CSU. It would have been easy for Coach Medved to refer to the South Dakota State game the same way but he chose to treat it as a singular game.

The Buffs are on a two-game bender and will come into Moby looking to get things turned around. Not only a huge rivalry game, but probably the most important Crackers Front Range League match-up of the year. The winner will be in the driver’s seat as far as the race for the coveted trophy.

But something else is at stake on Friday night.

I ran into Mallory Farokhmanesh, wife of CSU assistant coach Ali, after the game. She was following the UNI-CU game on her phone. If you don’t already know, Ali is a Northern Iowa legend, having produced a Top 10 all-time play in the NCAA Tournament when he drained a three-ball to knock out Kansas. He and Mallory remain huge Northern Iowa fans.

So when I mentioned to Mallory (and later to Ali), that the game against CU on Friday night was more than a rivalry game for bragging right, that it was the chance to complete the Farokhmanesh Double, they both got a kick out of it.

Rivalry Game, CFRL Championship on the line, Farokhmanesh Double.

I hope to see all of you on Friday night.

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