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3 takeaways: Sam Merrill goes off in a 77-61 victory over the Rams

Justin Michael Avatar
January 26, 2020

FORT COLLINS, Colo. — Colorado State men’s basketball was unable to extend its winning streak to six games on the road Saturday night. After struggling to score for much of the second half, the Rams fell 77-61 to the reigning Mountain West Champions in Logan, UT.

In the road loss, CSU struggled to contain Sam Merrill as the senior guard finished with a game-high 28 points on 10-of-15 shooting from the floor.

As he has done throughout his career, Merrill did a little bit of everything in the game — where he really killed the Rams, though, was from 3-point land. Merrill hit five of his seven attempts from beyond the arc and led all players with a 3-point shooting percentage of 71.4 in the Utah State win.

Here are the other takeaways from the late-night showdown between MW foes.

Aggies smolder hot young hoopsters

David Roddy and Isaiah Stevens have played out of their minds in the conference portion of the schedule. Unfortunately, though, an experienced Utah State group looked prepared for them on Saturday night.

Merrill did a great job of pressuring Stevens and consistently playing aggressive defense against the first-year starter, which made it tough for CSU’s young point guard to drive to the hoop. And whenever Roddy got the ball in the post, the Aggies immediately doubled the athletic power forward, forcing him to either dribble into the trap or pass the ball out to the perimeter.

Without the young guys to count on, the Rams needed someone else to counter Merrill’s hot shooting performance but nobody was able to step up and get it done.

In total, Stevens (8) and Roddy (10) combined for 18 points — the lowest either player has finished a game with since Roddy was switched into the starting lineup in late December.

Never say die

One of the most encouraging things about CSU this season has been that the Rams never roll over for anyone.

After going down 14 early in the first half, a lot of young teams would have let the Aggies steamroll them, especially in a tough environment like the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum. As they have all year, though, the Rams kept fighting and managed to make it a one possession game by halftime after using a 12-2 run to close the half (31-28).

The Rams lost steam in the second half and definitely struggled to slow down Utah State’s leading trio of Sam Merrill, Neemias Queta and Justin Bean down the stretch. Those three players combined for 51 of the Aggies’ 77 points and really dictated how the game was played on both ends of the floor.

Even with the rough finish, though, the Rams definitely showed that they have what it takes to match up with the Aggies in a big-time game. CSU did not make enough shots on Saturday but they did not play like a group that was intimidated by Utah State.

With that in mind, I’ll be interested to see how the Rams fare against the Aggies at Moby Arena. Every game is a learning experience for this young group so we’ll see what kind of adjustments they’re able to make.

Battle of the heavyweights

On a night where local UFC fighter Curtis Blaydes dominated his main card event, hoops fans were treated to a couple of intense battles on the hardwood as well.

Carvacho vs. Queta

Nico Carvacho and Neemias Queta will both go down as two of the best big men in the history of their respective programs. Neither have had the type of season that they would have hoped for coming in but it was definitely a lot of fun to watch these two go at it on Saturday.

The veterans were up-and-down on offensive but both guys were extremely disruptive in the post and finished with multiple blocks in the game.

Queta recorded a game-high three rejections and pulled down seven rebounds in a winning effort for the home team. The big man from Portugal did turn the ball over six times but made up for it with his defensive pressure and five timely assists.

Carvacho, on the other hand, tied for the team-high with 14 points and led the Rams with nine boards. The senior center also finished with a pair of blocks and really was solid on the defensive end all night.

Roddy vs. Bean

While Carvacho and Queta were the guys that got all the preseason hype, the fours have been huge for both Colorado State and Utah State this year.

Aggies power forward Justin Bean came into Saturday’s contest averaging 13.2 points and 10.4 rebounds per game. On Saturday, Bean wasn’t really the guy that ended up killing the Rams but he did pull down a team-high nine rebounds and finish with 13 points to boot. What’s more, Bean did a tremendous job of dealing with Roddy down low and forcing the rising star to make quick decisions.

What’s Next

The Rams will return to their home floor for a couple of important games this week. After falling to Nevada on New Year’s Day, the Rams will look to return the favor against the Wolf Pack on Wednesday. Then on Saturday afternoon, CSU will host UNLV during the annual ‘Orange Out’ game.


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