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CSU blows out Utah State in "Fight like a Ram" game — Stevens, Scott combine for 35 in front of sold-out crowd

Justin Michael Avatar
February 18, 2024

Colorado State won its 20th game of the season Saturday afternoon in front of a sold-out Moby Arena crowd. 

With the CSU players wearing names of local cancer patients in place of their own — a tradition that started five years ago in partnership with UC Health and has easily become one of the coolest things the program does — the Rams absolutely mauled Utah State, 75-55, in a blowout home victory. 

Following the win, Joel Scott, who scored the most points he’s had since December, talked about how special of an opportunity it was to take part in the annual “Fight like a Ram” game. He mentioned how moving it was to meet the cancer warriors and talk with them about what they’re going through. 

“Just getting a chance to get to know them is really special,” Scott said. “It’s a cool thing.”

“It really puts everything into perspective,” Nique Clifford added. 

“People are dealing with other challenges that are way bigger than the problems we have. We’re just trying to win a basketball game. It’s really cool to be a part of something like that, where you see people fighting real life problems, and just the joy and hope that they still have on their face just makes you want to smile and keep going. It’s a really awesome event.” 

Here are the takeaways from Saturday’s big win and a special day for the CSU community. 

Scott set the tone 

Joel Scott scored a team-high 14 points in the first half and really set the tone for the Rams early on. With the athletic forward able to get to the rim whenever he wanted, CSU was able to establish a physical presence down low from the opening moments of the game, and it really was a mentality that the Rams maintained throughout. 

Joel Scott dunks the ball for 2 of his 17 points in the victory. Photo: Ryan Greene | DNVR

CSU scored 24 of its first 26 points in the paint and only attempted one three over the first 10 minutes of action. And even after Utah State switched to a 1-3-1 zone to limit the damage in the paint, the Rams still finished the win with a 22-point advantage down low. It was a really impressive display of tenacity against a team that typically allows very few easy scores. 

“I thought Joel Scott just set the tone for how the game needed to be played for us,” Niko Medved said. “We were really aggressive attacking the lane. And it was awesome.”

Stevens was the closer

With the Aggies daring the Rams to shoot more from the perimeter in the second half and everybody seemingly struggling to make an open jump shot, this could have been a situation where CSU got stagnant offensively. Isaiah Stevens did a tremendous job of making sure that didn’t happen. 

Although they missed plenty of shots from deep, the ball movement remained steady and the looks the Rams were getting were largely uncontested and in rhythm. Had CSU shot closer to its typical average from 3-point, this very likely would have ended up being a victory of 30+ points. The Rams found a way to score just enough to maintain the comfortable lead, though. And against a really good team like Utah State, that’s really all you can ask for. 

Stevens deserves a lot of credit for the way he drove against the zone and made the Aggies react. His ability to get to the free throw line was a big factor in closing out the win. The fifth-year point guard also became CSU’s all-time leading 3-point shooter. 

Isaiah Stevens attacks the hoop against Utah State. Photo: Ryan Greene | DNVR

Cartier showed a lot of heart 

After rolling his ankle in the second half against San Diego State the other night, Patrick Cartier was a gametime decision against Utah State this weekend. 

Most guys in this situation would not have been able to tough it out and return to the starting lineup this quickly. Most guys are not Patrick Cartier, though. 

In 24 big minutes the former DII star scored 7 points on 3-of-6 shooting from the floor. He also pulled down five rebounds and dished out four assists. 

“He could have easily tapped out today and not played,” Medved said. “He showed a lot of toughness for this team.”

It all starts on D 

The ultimate takeaway from this win is that when the Rams defend at a high level, this is a team that is capable of beating anybody. 

In two of CSU’s most impressive wins of the year, Creighton and now Utah State, the Rams have had some of their worst 3-point shooting performances of the entire season. 17 percent as a team on Saturday is actually the worst. It did not matter, though, because CSU held Utah State to less than 40 percent from the field and only 27 percent from deep. 

For the first time in the Medved era, the Rams currently rank in the top 35 for both defensive and offensive efficiency. Odds are that CSU will shoot the ball better in most games than they did against the Aggies. But if they can continue to defend at an elite level, this team’s ceiling can be as high as it’s ever been. 

The Rams don’t have to score 100 points to beat you. With the way they are playing defensively right now, they don’t even technically need to score their season average (78 PPG). CSU is now 17-1, however, when scoring 75 or more points. 

Next up 

If you haven’t figured it out yet, there are no easy stretches in the Mountain West this season. The Rams will hit the road next week for a pair of tough tests at New Mexico and UNLV. 

A pair of wins would keep CSU’s hopes of playing a factor for the regular season Mountain West title alive. Even splitting would be great for an NCAA Tournament resume that is really shaping up nicely. 


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