Colorado State had an opportunity to earn a signature win in Boulder on Thursday night.
In a week that has been all about the Buffs, the Rams could have rained all over their rival’s parade by going into the Coors Event Center and taking care of business in front of 10,000+ fans.
That’s not what happened though. Instead CSU got its teeth kicked in.
CSU traded blows for a while, going shot for shot with CU for the first 16 or minutes or so. With 4:21 left to play in the first half the game was actually tied at 28 apiece, despite a bunch of early sloppy mistakes by the Green & Gold.
After a 3-pointer on the fast break from Isaiah Stevens tied the game for CSU though, CU proceeded to close the half with a 10-2 run over the final four minutes. And after taking a 38-30 lead into the break, the Buffs, feeding off of the energy of the home crowd, absolutely routed the Rams over the final 20 minutes.
The 93-65 loss is CSU’s biggest margin of defeat in this series since 1945, when the Rams lost 67-34 in Boulder. That alone will sting for CSU supporters for quite some time. But considering this performance followed up a stinker at home against Northern Colorado, and occurred in a week where much of the state has done nothing but drool over CU’s athletic department, this loss had the sting of a postseason defeat. Similarly to the Michigan game in the 2022 NCAA Tournament, the Rams were served a big ole’ dish of humble pie.
Though they were underdogs in the contest, so a road loss was not surprising, getting run off the court certainly was. As was the lack of intensity defensively and the inability to keep the Buffs off of the offensive glass, especially because it was the entire game plan by CSU.
“There’s not a ton to say on our part. That was as big of a good-old fashioned whatever whooping that you can take,” Niko Medved said. “We weren’t able to get anything done tonight that we emphasized.”
When the final whistle blew the Buffs held a massive advantage in total rebounds (+19). Their 13 offensive boards that resulted in 18 second-chance points played a major role in the game. Out-scoring CSU 54-24 in points in the paint was a big part of CU’s dominance as well.
“They just kind of really overwhelmed us with their pressure,” Medved said. “I thought a lot of our turnovers led to touchdowns. We were just never able to regroup and I just thought their physicality really got to us as the game went on. We just completely had it handed to us tonight.”
Following the disappointing showing, the Rams will need to look in the mirror and find a way to respond in a hurry. CSU still has challenging non-conference games against Saint Mary’s and USC remaining. The Mountain West slate won’t be a walk in the park either.
“You can’t go out there and lose a game like this and say you’re not concerned,” Medved said postgame. “That would be pretty crazy to do that.”
While there is cause for concern — quite a bit of it actually — the good news is we’re only a third of the way through the regular season.
“We’ve got a lot of basketball left to play here still, so let’s not write the story yet,” Medved said.
Medved and his staff have earned the benefit of the doubt over the years. I fully expect this Rams team to be more competitive in March than they have been of late. They just have too much talent on the roster to be a total disaster.
That said, while I won’t be closing the book or writing off the Rams after one bad week, it’s clear that this team has a lot of issues to work through. The biggest thing might actually be trying to find some toughness. Both the Bears and Buffs brought the fight to the Rams, and instead of punching back, CSU crumbled.
Hopefully this will be the wakeup call this group needed, because that was about as ugly as it gets.