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Second Half Surge Carries Rams to 77-66 Victory Over Nevada

January 26, 2022

Let’s get this out of the way first. The final score was actually:

#TeamTogether 77 – #TeamTalented 66.

Make no mistake about it. The Nevada Wolf Pack may very well have the most talented starting lineup in the entire Mountain West Conference. But on this night where they were short a pair of key players (Adam Thistlewood, John Tonje), the Colorado State Rams stayed connected on both ends of the floor and eventaully wore the visitors from Reno down, scoring an important conference victory.

A slow start, an early run, some careless turnovers that led to easy Nevada baskets and the next thing you know the Rams trailed 17-11. The Wolf Pack would hold that lead the rest of the half, pushing it to as large as 10 before finally settling for a 34-27 halftime lead.

The Rams were struggling with Nevada’s height on the offensive end. A bit tentative on offense, they shot 32% from the field and their careless turnovers led to 10 Nevada points. It was only their defensive effort that had the Rams still in contact at the half.

I tweeted this:

No time for panic. But time for urgency. The halftime talk was simple. Keep on keeping on but with a higher level of energy and intensity. And boy did they come out fast, making their first four shots and before you knew it the teams were tied at 39 at the 17 minutes mark.

The teams traded blows for a good nine minutes. Neither team led by more than three. The game was tied at 63 with 6:03 remaining. It was time for everyone to fasten their seat belts and enjoy those final minutes featuring the two best closers in the MWC – Grant Sherfield of Nevada and Isaiah Stevens.

Both players have delivered countless game winners in their careers. Both possess extraordinary individual skills that allow them to create shots for themselves and their teammates.

But a funny thing happened on the way to a fantastic finish. One team asserted itself while the other team crunbled. The Rams went on a 12-0 run ver the next 5 minutes, holding Sherfield to 0-4 shooting. They led 75-63 at the one minute mark and it was over other than some last minute househepping.

I have intentionally omitted much of the individual play because of the team effort but tonight was full of individual superlatives.

First you have to start with the amazing duo of David Roddy and Isaiah Stevens. Roddy stuffed a stat sheet over his 36 minutes on the floor. 18 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals. A few early dunks with some frustration at the rim in the first half. A slew of crafty finishes at the rim with either hand in the second half, combined with some extraorinary passing to set up teammates for easy scores.

Stevens signing autographs post-game

Stevens had a slow start, missing his first 5 shots before scoring a late midrange jumper. He came out for the second half with one thought in mind. ”Stay with it”. Supreme confidence in his game. He shot 4-6 including 2-3 from beyond the arc, 4-4 from the free throw line. 14 points in the 20 minutes. Multiple broken ankles on his opponents.

And then there was Chandler Jacobs. Getting his second start in place of Adam Thistlewood, he was sensational again, scoring 14 points, and gathering 5 rebounds. It was Jacobs’ seven-point burst early in the second half that got the Rams back to even as he drained a three-ball and finished twice at the rim.

Moore post-game

Kendle Moore had a tough first half but followed it with a 9-point second half that featured a key sequence which included a blow-by finish at the rim and a three-ball that dangled around the rim for eternity before finally dropping. And it was his defense on Sherfield that set the tone during the importnt stretch run, as he forced Sherfield into uncomfortable spots where the help from teammates could come.

Isaiah Rivera came off the bench to score 6 important first half points and draw an all important charge as well. Those six points were invaluable as the Rams were really struggling to score and kept them within striking distance.

Soul-stealing James Moors flashing that Down Under smile

I’ve saved the big men superlatives for last as Dischon Thomas and James Moors combined for 14 points and 7 rebounds in their 39 minutes on the floor. Thomas got the Rams started with an early-three ball and scored the points that launched them into a two-possession lead down the stretch. Moors came off the bench and played his finest game of the season. He scored 8 points but more importantly he shored up the interior defense with strong positional play and physicality. His final act was a soul-stealing block on a Sherfield layup attempt where he completely stuffed the uber-talented guard. It was game over at that point.

So there you have it. A tentative start, a simple halftime adjustment of picking up the overall energy, 8 guys playing as one in delivering a 50-32 second half with featured 68% shooting from the field.

Team Together?

YOU BET!

A Coaching Masterclass

If you were watching closely, you saw a coach and his staff in their element as they dealt with the challenges of being short a pair of players in the rotation, match-up issues, and foul trouble.

Dischon Thomas picked up a pair of early second half fouls trying to guard the Wolf Pack’s Will Baker. He went to the bench with his fourth foul with over 17 minutes remaining. On came Moors who put Baker in check for the rest of the game.

But it wasn’t that simple. Coach Medved still needed Thomas for his scoring ability and mobility and he spent a good portion of the second half getting Thomas brief segments here and there. He made sure Moors stayed matched on Baker but brought Thomas in when Baker was on the bench. Both Moors and Thomas were effective down the stretch and instrmental in the second half comeback. Thomas never fouled out.

If you follow the Rams you know that one of their favorite things to do is play a small ball lineup with David Roddy as the center. More often than not, its the lineup that blows open games as the Rams are able to exploit their speed and physical advantages.

No dice in this game.

The coaches recognized in the second half that the small ball lineup was not a good option. They were short both Thistlewood and Tonje who would typically play the power forward in the small ball lineup. The next choice would be Chandler Jacobs. But Jacobs had three fouls early in the second half. A small ball lineup would but Jacobs in a precarious position and they could not afford to lose him on fouls. So no small ball.

I talk about the entire staff because Coach Medved is very inclusive in how he uses his assistant coaches. Yes he is the final arbiter but its really fun to watch the interaction of the staff during timeouts and they decide their next steps. They may be Team Together but certainly they are also Staff Together.

It was a first class coaching effort in prep and over the 40 minutes. And I told Coach Medved exactly that after the game.

He smiled when he told me ”We earned our paychecks tonight”.

Nevada’s Woes

I cannot tell you how shocked I am that Nevada struggles as much as they do. Their starting lineup is talented and so well put together in terms of the skills that are typically required at each position. And they have solid bench players as well.

But something is really missing on that team. They don’t always play connected, they don’t play with any semblance of joy. Its almost as if they really don’t like each other.

We’ve Come A Long Way Baby!

Post-game I ran into two of my favorite Ram fans – Len and Jan Carpenter. If you don’t know them, you should. They are absolute treasures when it comes to support of all things CSU. Of course we were happy that our Rams had overcome the injuries to Adam Thistlewood and John Tonje. And then Jan chimed in with a fantastic memory of the past. She said ”Remember when Marcus Walker got struck by a car in the parking lot before a game. And when they had to pop Willis Gardner’s shoulder back in place just so he could play.”

We laughed. Because this CSU program has truly come a long way when they can survive being short-handed as they did this evening, beat a good team, and move their record to 16-1.

On To Friday Evening and the Bigger Than Basketball Event

Given my current situation, I am so looking forward to Friday night. The support I am getting from fellow Ram fans, friends, and the coaching staff has made me feel so blessed. But the best of all came after the game when former CSU great and current Grad Assistant Joe De Ciman told me that he was going to make sure that Jalen Scott didnt wear his warm-up top during pre-games so that my name would be seen on his jersey.

I love you Joe.

And finally, the dumb Ramnation.com post of the evening

You probably know that I do a bunch of basketball podcasts with Joel and Mike on Ramnation.com. It is something I am especially proud of as I think we bring some unique content for true fans of the program.

I also find it comical to see how the Nervous Nellies react during games on the Message Board, providing their unique insight if the Rams , by any chance, fall behind in a game. Their failure to recognize that the other team has quality scholarship players and that games last for 40 minutes lead to incredibly dumb takes.

Here’s the best one from last night.

You keep being you sanfranram. The rest of us will enjoy this team.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Len Carpenter permalink
    January 27, 2022 1:38 am

    Another great blog. Also thanks for the kind words re/Ram fans. It is passion like yours that helps us “keeping on” in support of all things CSU.

  2. Jan Carpenter permalink
    January 27, 2022 2:01 am

    Thanks for mentioning us, Swoll. (It rook a while to remember that your real name is Steve.) Our shared Ram experiences go way back, including an unbelievable NCAA tourney victory following way too many losing seasons. Thanks for these blogs. Your insight teaches me the intricacies of basketball. As we watch the recordings of games that we watched in person, I learn your comments. .Finally, I appreciate your love for Joe. He was our Legacy athlete and we love him, too. Please continue to heal, so we can enjoy many more Ram basketball games. We’ve only just begun.

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