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Rams Spill Guts in Epic 62-60 Win Over Saint Mary’s

December 19, 2022

First I have to come clean. I wasn’t there, and because I was busy with family obligations, I was not able to watch the live stream. I watched the replay after the game had ended.

And what I saw was probably the guttiest performance by a Ram squad during the Niko Medved Era. They began the game down two players, Jalen Lake and Tavi Jackson, both of whom had started the previous game vs Peru State. They were on the road in a tough gym where they had scored a mere 33 points just two years ago against a Top 15 opponent who possess a neutral win over San Diego State and a close loss to Top 5 Houston.

And if you’ve seen Saint Mary’s you know they are big, strong, and physical. Fundamentally sound, they have a way of legally turning games into UFC affairs. Nasty. Not dirty. And with the Rams coming off a pair of crushing defeats at the hands on instate rivals, games in which the Rams had not displayed an appropriate level of toughness, a 180 degree turn was necessary to have any chance.

And turn around they did as they went head-to-head with the Gaels much as Rams do in real life. No tricks. Pure force and technique.

Team Together at its best as they executed their offense to the tune of 56% from the field. 19-29 on two-point field goals, an incredible 65% against an opponent who allow only 42% typically. 12 assists on 24 makes for a 50% clip. Doesn’t sound like much until you realize the Rams were playing a Gael team that is ranked 2nd in the nation defensively, allowing assists on only 30% on the makes against them. A rock solid Gael defense that had allowed only 1 assist in their previous game vs New Mexico State.

Defensively, the Rams held their opponents to 40% shooting from the field and forced 16 turnovers. Saint Mary’s turnover rate was their second highest of the season, exceeded only by Houston who possess the second ranked defense in the nation. While the Rams weren’t perfect – they allowed 18 second chance points – they managed to get key steals and defensive rebounds when it mattered most down the stretch. The Rams scored their last field goal with just under 4 minutes remaining. But they managed to hold on as they didn’t allow a Saint Mary’s field goal in the final 4 minutes, forcing the home team into numerous turnovers or tough shots.

Isaiah Stevens led the way with 23 points and John Tonje added 17. Scoring matters. But so do the efforts of Josiah Strong and Baylor Hebb, a pair of players who came off the bench and played key roles in their time on the floor. Hebb had three steals, the last of which came stealing a post-entry pass to a much larger Gael after getting caught on a switch. Strong went scoreless but made two key defensive plays in the final minute, including a forced travel with the Rams leading by 1 in the final seconds.

The losses to Northern Colorado and Colorado had led to questions about whether they had lost their identity. But on this December evening in Moraga, CA that identity emerged. They had spilled their guts, they had gone head on with a very difficult opponent.

Tonight they were R-A-M-S.


Other Stuff

Swoll Man of the Match – Another no brainer. Isaiah Stevens showed why he is one of the top point guards in the country. 23 points on 9-16 shooting, 5 assists against only 1 turnover. All against a defense that was geared toward shutting him down. He was strong on the ball, smart with his reads. Scoring from the perimeter, the midrange, at the rim, and the free throw line. The total package. And if you watched the very end, you saw just how skilled he is. With 1 second remaining and a 61-60 lead, He went the free throw line. Strategy says make the first, miss the second so that the only hope for the opponent is to grab a rebound and immediately throw it down court. Stevens made the first, then barely grazed the rim on the second, resulting in a no hoper toss from nearly underneath the basket. There is nothing this young man can’t do.

“Gritty effort…especially being short handed. They are so big and physical” – post game words from Coach Niko Medved. What a coach, what a staff, what a group of players!

Baylor Hebb with the Win – As has become tradition on the road after big wins, the team stops for post game snacks. Hebb the easy winner of this one as he grabbed a large bag of Oreos. If I find out he washed them down with a quart of milk I will no longer refer to him by his given name. I will call him Snack God.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Rich Feller permalink
    December 19, 2022 2:58 pm

    Steve… what’s your fav junk food… great pic… don’t u wish we were on that team… fun win last night… have a great holiday

    • December 19, 2022 3:03 pm

      My go tos for snacks are either a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos or Twizzlers. Hope you have a great holiday as well. See you New Years Eve!

  2. Spike permalink
    December 19, 2022 3:19 pm

    What’s wrong with Jalen Lake and Tavi Jackson?

    • December 19, 2022 3:20 pm

      Lake injured his shoulder against Peru State. Jackson injured his foot in practice. No word on whether they’ll be back for USC on Wednesday.

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