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DENVER — No. 20 Colorado State moved to 11-0 on Tuesday with a 67-59 victory over the Air Force Falcons (8-5). It was far from the prettiest game that we’ve seen from the Green & Gold, as the Rams were held to about 15 points less than what they produce on average. But Niko Medved’s experienced group was able to work through the rust, produce enough when it mattered and find a way to remain undefeated.
“At the end of the day, I’m really proud of our guys for just fighting through it. And finding a way to get the first Mountain West win when you knew deep down physically, it wasn’t all going to be there tonight,” the men’s head basketball coach said postgame.
Medved stressed that fatigue played a major role in the matchup. Not only did CSU not play a game for 24 consecutive days, but the Rams were completely inactive for much of that time period. They held just three total practices between the wins over Mississippi State and Air Force. “There’s nothing like playing because it’s not just that we haven’t played in 24 days, about half of that we did nothing,” Medved said. “We weren’t out on the court doing anything.”
Despite having less than ideal preparation time for the matchup and getting a feisty effort from an Air Force unit that was shorthanded from the start — the Falcons hit 48 percent of its 21 attempts from deep (10-of-21) — CSU defended well enough down the stretch to steal the win. The Rams also benefited from a strong showing on the glass and created significantly more second chance opportunities. And while it wasn’t a banner day offensively, the Rams limited turnovers better than their opponent and were +8 in that margin.
Here are the individual game grades from the victory.
Isaiah Stevens — A-
It was another night with zero turnovers for CSU’s trustworthy point guard. He missed some open shots that he normally would make and finished 5-of-14 from the floor, but still led the Rams in scoring with 15 points and came up with some timely production. The junior from Allen, TX scored 5 of CSU’s final 8 points of the first half, then carried that spark into the second and helped the Rams secure the ‘W’. Stevens was tremendous defensively. And he played a game-high 34 minutes, even after the 24 day layoff.
Kendle Moore — B-
Moore was relatively quiet in this one, finishing with 5 points, one assist and a pair of rebounds in 21 minutes. He was solid as usual on defense though. The senior guard had one steal and was +8 in his time on the floor, even without a ton of scoring production. It was also his three that gave CSU its first lead of the contest at the 5:06 mark of the first half and the Rams never trailed again from that moment.
David Roddy — A
Roddy recorded the 18th double-double of his impressive career in the victory, with 13 points and a team-high 12 rebounds. His efforts on the glass were hugely important, as they limited putback opportunities for Air Force and allowed the Rams to get out and run on offense. While Roddy had a couple of signature plays on Tuesday, his biggest of the night was a block at the rim that then led to a transition three from Adam Thistlewood. The rejection came right after the Rams had taken the lead for the first time and the play was a big momentum swing in CSU’s favor. The big man out of Breck High School in Minneapolis, MN arguably put the final nail in the coffin as well, when he emphatically dunked the ball to give the Rams an 8 point lead with just a minute to go. He continues to impress on a nightly basis.
Adam Thistlewood — B-
Thistlewood continues to do the dirty work for the Rams and I never want to diminish the value of a player that can defend the wing, pick up boards and occasionally knock down threes for the offense. It would just be nice to the senior get up a few more looks on offense. In 24 minutes on the floor Thistlewood attempted just two field goals, a transition three and a missed layup after a strong baseline drive.
Dischon Thomas — B+
Thomas didn’t see as many minutes as he typically would. The 6-foot-9 forward played just 13 minutes in the victory, largely due to matchups. The Falcons don’t have a ton of size so oftentimes you have to use a smaller lineup to combat their quickness with the four guard lineup. Even in reduced action, though, Thomas was still impactful. He had a pair of crucial offensive rebounds and an assist on one end. D.T. had a block on defense as well.
John Tonje — B+
Coming off the bench, Tonje continues to be a spark plug for CSU’s offense. The junior from Omaha, NE wasn’t super efficient, finishing 2-of-9 from the floor in the win. But he did hit a pair of threes, one of which ended up being a 4-point play after he made the free throw. Tonje also had three defensive rebounds and a block on the other end. He may be known for offense primarily, but it was really strong showing on defense for Tonje in general.
James Moors — A-
This was the best game of the season for James Moors so far. Again, just like Thomas, he only played 13 minutes with the Rams going smaller for most of the night. But the Aussie made the most of his time with 5 points and six rebounds. Where he really stood out was on the offensive glass, his three offensive boards were absolutely huge. The Rams are likely going to need more from Moors down the line, so it’s encouraging to see a breakout game from him. The only reason he gets an A- rather than an A is because of his two turnovers.
Chandler Jacobs — A+
Jacobs was marvelous in this win. He was absolutely lockdown defensively and recorded a pair of steals in his 19 minutes. What really impressed me, however, was how calm he was when the game started to tighten up again in the second half. On multiple occasions Jacobs was able to blow past Air Force defenders and finish with finesse at the hoop. He was also the one that found Tonje in the corner in transition and was awarded with an assist on the 4-point play.
Isaiah Rivera — B-
Rivera had a lapse or two on defense and recorded a turnover quickly after coming into the game, but he still finished +1 in his 8 minutes on the court. The up-and-comer hit a three to put CSU up 4 with 10 minutes to play. It was nice to see him get some run.
Jalen Lake — B
Lake had 6 points and a turnover in 14 minutes of action. He finished 1-of-3 from deep, but the coaches have to love the confidence that he plays with, as well as the gorgeous release on his jump shot.