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Rams Claw Their Way to Huge 77-72 Win Over Utah State

January 13, 2022

With 6 seconds remaining in the first half, CSU guard Isaiah Stevens caught a pass from Chandler Jacobs in the backcourt after a Ram steal. Flying up the court, Stevens did what he often does. He delivered a hard jab step to shake his defender, rose from 27’, and drained a three-ball that sent the Rams into the locker room leading 33-24. It was the final nail in a near perfect first half by the Rams.

They had started slowly and trailed 10-5 when freshman Jalen Lake drained a 3-ball, then forced a steal that created a breakaway layup by Stevens to tie the game at 10. That sequence launched the Rams on a 14-1 run and they quickly had an 8-point lead. They maintained the lead the rest of the half with sound defense, great rebounding, and timely scoring.

Jalen Lake

It was near perfect only because the Rams were missing wide open looks from beyond the arc. Shots that normally fall. shots that actually need to fall because those are the shots that their offense tries to produce. A 9-point lead could easily have been 20.

And there was a bit of a harbinger in the final minutes of the first half as Utah State started running a 5-man out set that spread the Rams out defensively and caused them some fits with drives to the basket after finding mismatches.

The second half was very much a back and forth affair as Utah State’s offense was drawing fouls on parries to the rim and the Rams were responding with just enough offense to hold the Aggies at bay. The Aggies were in the bonus with over 14 minutes remaining and began to exploit the Rams from the free throw line, making 10-12 over a 5 minute span.

Stevens went to the bench with his third foul at about the 11-minute mark and it was obvious the next few minutes would be crucial for the Rams. They held on, held on, held on, and then Utah State broke through with a quick 7-0 run that brought them within 1 at the 7:51 mark.

It was game on.

The scratching and clawing began. Utah State threw a junk 1-3-1 zone featuring two tall defenders at the top and it caused the Rams major problems in terms of maintaining any offensive rhythm. The Aggies also threw a match-up zone for a few possessions. The game was slowed to the Aggies liking and they took their first lead since midway through the first half when All-Conference forward (and MWC Player of the Year candidate) Justin Bean drained a short jumper.

The Rams immediately countered with a David Roddy three-ball and now it was time for the final and critical 4-minute stretch after a Ram timeout.

The Rams came out of the timeout and threw a zone defense at the Aggies which completely flummoxed them into a couple of bad misses. On the offensive end, it was time for CSU’s stars to take over as first Roddy scored a jumper, followed by a Stevens jumper off of a Chandler Jacobs offensive rebound.

The Rams led by 5 and Utah State was forced into a timeout as they were struggling on their third straight possession against the Rams’ zone defense. The Aggies drew up a play but it was doomed from the start as Niko Medved did the proverbial cat-and-mouse and switched back to man-to-man defense. They forced a bad miss by Brandon Horvath from beyond the arc and it was time to close the game out.

Uncharacteristic turnovers producing easy baskets kept the Aggies within strdistance but the Rams were able to close the game out at the free throw line going 10-10 in the final minute. None were bigger than the pair by David Roddy. With the Rams in trouble late in the shot clock, CSU’s John Tonje threw a wild lob to Roddy near the basket who rose and caught the ball between Utah State’s two bigs who were forced to foul. It looked like the foul could easily gone to either Aggie but it was assigned to Justin Bean and it was his fifth. A critical play at a critical time.

From there it was Jacobs and Stevens calmly knocking down the free throws and the Rams had their victory.

The one-two punch of David Roddy and Isaiah Stevens had proven to be a little too much for the Aggies as they combined for 46 points on 16-25 shooting. Jalen Lake and Chandler Jacobs both came off the bench to score 11 each and Jacobs (with his python arms) nearly had a double-double with 9 rebounds.

Chandler Jacobs

For the Aggies, they were led by Sean Bairstow with 20. Justin Bean had 14 and 6 rebounds, well below his season averages of 20 and 10 as the Rams, led by David Roddy and a host of others, held the Utah State star in check.

In the end, credit goes to players and staff of both teams for turning the game into an exciting, tactical affair. The type of game I absolutely love as a fan.

Did You Know David Roddy Played Football?

We all laugh (and some drink) every time a broadcaster talks about Roddy’s prowess as a prep quarterback in Minnesota. But the play he made with a minute remaining, catching a lob pass while sandwiched between 6’11’ Brandon Horvath and 6’7” Justin Bean was a remarkable athletic play. And it was very much like a Tight End going up and grabbing a pass in the end zone. So of course post-game I had to tease Roddy by accusing him of making a football play during a basketball game.

The bottom line is this. David Roddy is the biggest mismatch on the basketball court in the Mountain West and one of the biggest in the nation. He is unguardable by a single player because he possesses not just basketball skills but true athletic skills that would allow him to be successful in many sports. Not just football or basketball.

In The Zone

So early in the second half, I turned to my friend and said. ”Rams are getting beat off the bounce. I wish they’d figure out a way to play some zone because I think Utah State would really struggle.

So it made me happy when Coach Medved went to a zone defense in the final four minutes and it gave the Rams the impetus to finish the game out.

Coach Niko Medved

Could it have come sooner? Of course it could but that really doesnt matter. It proved to be the right tactical move at the right time.

And here’s the remarkable part. The Rams had nothing in the game plan regarding playing zone and they really didn’t practice it in their preparation for Utah State. But its the sign of a quality team when they can execute something well without repping it in practice.

Shooting Struggles From The Perimeter

As I mentioned earlier, the Rams had many open looks from beyond the arc and missed them. Many were badly missed. The main culprits tonight were Adam Thistlewood, Kendle Moore, and John Tonje. Guys you would expect to shoot somewhere in the 40-50% range based on their past history. Guys who were 1-12 tonight.

Should Ram fans be worried? The answer is yes and no. The yes comes from the fact that the team will struggle to reach their full potential, their highest peak if these gifted shooters continue to miss. The no is that the team has plenty of firepower to overcome the shooting slumps of several players. Stevens, Lake, and Roddy were a combined 8-10 from beyond the arc.

I talked a bit with Kendle Moore after the game and of course he was disappointed. But if you watched his on-ball defense tonight, you know that he’s not one to let poor shooting affect the rest of his game. And that is why this team is now 12-1.

Cosmetic Officiating

Many Ram fans were upset by the officiating as they thought it was very one-sided, especially in the second half. From my perspective, there were a couple of block-charges that could have gome the other way but I also thought many of the fouls called on the Rams were fouls. The officiating crew was a veteran crew and featured on of the top referees from the Big Ten, Paul Szelc.

But there was some serious makeup going on.

An poor offensive foul call on one end against the Rams led to a quick moving screen call on the Aggies at the other end.

And when the foul count was 7-2 in the first minutes of the second half, I made sure that referee Larry Spaulding knew about it. I yelled out something to the effect, ”Fouls are 7-2 Larry. You owe is a few”. Spaulding immediately looked up at the scoreboard to check the foul count. Calls started coming CSU’s way after that.

But the absolute best makeup call of the night came after an obvious Utah State travel right in front of the CSU bench. There is no greater insult to a head coach than a horribly missed call right in front of him. Niko Medved was rightfully pissed. But the response from the referee was even better. My buddy reads lips really well and got a good look at the official when he turned to Niko and said ”I owe you one”. Next time down the floor there was a marginal foul called against Utah State on a rebound that could have very easily been called the other way. Closure to a missed call.

You can like it, you can hate it, but the bottom line is that we were treated to a great game tonight and that’s all that matters.

One Comment leave one →
  1. January 13, 2022 6:04 pm

    Love the recap/observations as always, Swoll! And was thrilled to see you felt well enough to make the game.

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