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Taking care of business.
The 45-point win over the Division II opponent is the largest margin of victory for the Rams under Niko Medved and the biggest blowout CSU has had in Moby Arena since beating Nevada by 56 in 2015.
It’s the fourth-largest margin of victory in program history according to official team records. It’s also the second time this season that the Rams have scored 105 or more points in a standard regulation game — both of which now rank in the top 15 for the most points ever scored by CSU.
Here are the takeaways from Friday night.
Too much firepower
Just as you would expect in a matchup between a Division I and Division II opponent, the Rams were simply too deep for the RMAC squad to have a chance in this one.
CSU shot 63 percent from the floor as a unit and a season-high 50 percent from 3-point range in the win. What was great about the offensive explosion, though, was that seven different individuals scored in double-digit figures but nobody finished with more than 13 points.
Nine different Rams made at least three field goals and eight hit one or more 3-pointers. It was the definition of a team performance.
The ball was poppin’
The Rams recorded 20 assists on 22 made field goals in the first half, so the ball movement was stellar from the get-go. When the final buzzer sounded, the Rams finished with 33 assists on 41 made field goals and just 11 turnovers. It was exactly the kind of unselfish offense that has made CSU so difficult to defend this season.
What was especially encouraging about the offense was the production or mentality did not did after the starters left the game. The rotational guys scored 47 points and combined for 13 assists themselves.
Medved has said on multiple occasions that there is not a player in the locker room that he would not trust to handle key minutes for the Green & Gold. When you see the players come out and execute like that, it’s easy to understand why. Everybody is locked in and bought into what the staff is preaching. It’s a lot of fun to watch.
Welcome back, Mr. Lake.
Jalen Lake returned to the starting lineup after missing the last five games with a broken finger. With the way he smoothly knocked down a couple of shots in the opening minutes of the contest, though, you would have never guessed he was coming off of an injury.
Lake finished the win with 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting and showed a little bit of everything. He hit a 3-pointer, created his own mid-range jumper, finished through contact in the paint and made some timely passes to finish second on the team in assists with five.
His presence on the defensive end has certainly been missed more than anything. However, if Lake is going to consistently score like he did in this one, as well as the win over Colorado, the Rams are going to be that much harder to defend.
Lake is a guy that can beat you from deep or put it on the floor and attack. He’s a smooth facilitator that can really hurt you with a skip pass to an open shooter on the other end of the floor. He’s frankly an overqualified role player that is putting ego aside to better serve the needs of this team.
Getting him some minutes before a challenging start in the league slate was one of the biggest benefits of this game.
Joe Palmer? Joe Palmer.
It had been a bit of a cold stretch for the man informally known as “Headband Joe”.
Coming into Friday night, CSU’s versatile spark plug off the bench had hit just four of his last 18 attempts from deep.
Having a game where he finished 3-of-5 from beyond the arc was promising, especially with such a big three-game stretch coming up. CSU is going to need Palmer to be a factor in conference play. This was a step in the right direction.
On a side note, Javonte Johnson had arguably his best game as a Ram. The former New Mexico starter had 10 points and a couple of rebounds in 17 minutes off the bench. His effort really stood out on the defensive end, too. As did the way he sprinted down the court in transition situations.
Finally, while we don’t want to get too caught up in a big win over an inferior opponent, the starting five of Isaiah Stevens, Nique Clifford, Jalen Lake, Joel Scott and Patrick Cartier deserve high praise for their business-like mentality.
This was a situation where it would have been really easy to overlook the opponent or play with their food a little bit. Instead the Rams came out and immediately set the tone.
Stevens and Cartier finished the night with 13 points apiece to tie for the team lead in scoring. Stevens also had a team-high seven assists to bring his career total to 713. He needs just one more point to reach 2,000 in his prestigious career.
Clifford led the team in rebounding (4) and steals (3) to go along with his 11 points. And Scott had 10 points on the offensive end, along with three blocks and a steal on defense.
These guys have impressed with their maturity and team-first approach all year long. It’s going to be fun to see what they are able to accomplish in conference play.
The challenge has really only just begun. The top five teams in the Mountain West are a combined 59-6 at this point and that’s not even including a 9-4 Boise State that was projected to finish near the top of the league.
The Rams will have one of their toughest tests yet when New Mexico (12-1) comes Moby Arena for a late-night showdown on Tuesday.