FORT COLLINS — Redemption.
David Roddy had a chance to put his team ahead in the final seconds of regulation of Monday night’s overtime loss against Wyoming. After tying the game at 70 apiece, Roddy missed the second free throw attempt and the Pokes ultimately pulled out the 84-78 win up at Arena Auditorium in Laramie, Wyo.
Obviously, blaming Roddy for the Wyoming loss would be absurd, CSU wouldn’t have even been in the game without him. But against San Diego State on Friday night, in front of a sold out Moby Arena crowd, Roddy got his redemption moment.
CSU led by as much as 20 against the Aztecs and trailed for all of six seconds on Friday night. However, the game ended up being much closer than anyone would have expected. After looking dead in the water for much of the second half, SDSU outscored CSU 19-4 over the final 5:34. What’s worse, they used a 13-2 run over the final 2:06 to take their first lead of the night. With 14 seconds left Lamont Butler cashed a 3-pointer for the Aztecs to go up 57-56.
Niko Medved could have immediately called a timeout, instead he did what he usually does and trusted his players to create for themselves. Isaiah Stevens advanced the ball past midcourt, but had the ball knocked loose out of his hands. Fortunately, for the Ram Faithful, the ball landed in Roddy’s hands and the junior knocked down the game-winning jump shot with nine seconds left (58-57).
— Justin Michael (@JustinTMichael) February 5, 2022
Following the victory, Roddy was calm and collected. He acknowledged that there was a bit of a feeling of redemption. He also referred to the Man in the Arena though. “Whether you win or lose, you know, the credit goes to the guy who’s in the arena doing it,” Roddy said. “So, it’s my job to put my team in the best position to win and, you know, I’m just glad I made the shot.”
Roddy led the Rams in scoring with 22 points on 9-of-17 shooting. He paced the team in rebounds with nine and tied for the team-lead in assists as well (4). But aside from drilling the game-winner, his most valuable contribution may have been his iron man mentality. He, along with Matt Bradley of SDSU, tied with a game-high 33 minutes on the floor. In a game as physical as Friday’s, Roddy’s ability to stay on the floor was huge for CSU on both ends.
Again, players aren’t defined by single shots, the ones they make or miss. However, after the way that the Wyoming game ended, it was great to see one of the leaders of the team step up and deliver in the biggest moment.
“Pretty cool, isn’t it? He’s such a great young man and he’s grown so much,” Medved said of Roddy getting a chance to redeem himself with the game on the line. “I mean, obviously as a player, but just emotionally handling everything. And to come out, you saw him, he was exhausted. He gave everything he had tonight and was just not going to be denied.
“And that’s just who he is,” Medved continued. “ I think you saw that and it’s cool when you see guys do that and fight through it to have that kind of moment in the next game, I think it’s really cool.”
Along with Roddy, the Rams got a spark out of John Tonje, who was implemented back into the starting lineup. Tonje knocked down three of his four shots from deep and was able to consistently get to the free throw line with an aggressive offensive mindset (5-of-6). In total Tonje scored 16 points in 30 minutes. He made an impact on defense too.
Medved credited Tonje for his efforts defending Bradley. “Tonje was phenomenal tonight. Matt Bradley’s a terrific player, I thought John’s defense on him for a period of time was absolutely phenomenal.”
Medved also praised Tonje for the final defensive possession of the first half, when Tonje drew a big charge to allow CSU to keep a two-possession lead at halftime. “I thought that was a huge play,” Medved said. “And our guys came out of the locker room and kind of found another gear, I think to separate.”
Blowing the lead and losing the game would have been catastrophic for the Green & Gold, especially after getting blown out by UNLV and dropping a heartbreaker to a rival. Medved said himself that CSU didn’t deal with SDSU’s pressure well when the game started to flip late, so the Rams will need to get in the film room, identify what went wrong and iron everything out. Championship teams cannot afford to lose games that they are leading by 20 with 10 minutes left.
What it’s all about ? pic.twitter.com/mqv2tCkDEh
— Justin Michael (@JustinTMichael) February 5, 2022
Having said all of that, the fact that CSU was able to respond in the most critical moment, after basically getting dominated for the final minutes of play, says a lot about the mindset of this team. Great teams find a way to win and that’s what the Rams did in this one. As bad as losing that game would have been, finding a way to pull it out has the potential to spark another run from this talented group.
Finally, moments like this are special. And while cynics will roll their eyes at the students storming the court against a non-ranked opponent, the context of the matchup was big enough to justify it, particularly with the way that it played out in the end. College basketball is supposed to be fun. Friday night was as fun as it gets.