Colorado State snapped a five-game losing streak with a 69-53 road victory over Air Force on Tuesday night.
Led by John Tonje (21) and Isaiah Stevens (20) who combined for 41 points on 18-of-27 shooting, the Rams were able to efficiently attack the Falcons with one of the more impressive offensive showings of the season.
Whether it was attacking the paint, knocking down a mid-range jumper or drilling a 3-pointer, CSU’s veteran duo were able to pretty much do whatever they wanted in this one. The Falcons simply could not stay in front of these guys and they played like they knew it.
Just about anytime that they put the ball on the floor, Tonje and Stevens were able to create a quality look for themselves. And for the most part, those looks found the bottom of the net after they put them up with confidence.
Here are the other takeaways from Tuesday night.
Rams owned the paint
Tonje and Stevens were the stars of the show, but just about everyone had success by driving and attacking at the hoop at some point.
As a team the Rams recorded 42 points which was more than twice as much as Air Force (20). And it was that persistence to work the paint that allowed CSU to finish with its best field goal percentage against Mountain West competition so far this season (56%).
Patrick Cartier and James Moors had 7 points apiece, all of which came down low or at the free throw line. Isaiah Rivera and Joe Palmer had 6 points each as well. And the best part was that all four of those guys were efficient as they combined to go 10-of-21 from the floor.
Rams worked the glass
CSU has not had much success on the boards this season, but the Rams were able to finish with eight more rebounds than Air Force on Tuesday.
What was particularly encouraging was that six different players got in on the action and recorded at least three rebounds each. Moors led CSU with seven despite only playing 17 minutes. Even Baylor Hebb, who got the start with Jalen Lake (concussion) and Tavi Jackson (illness) both out again, was able to pull down five boards.
It was a party on the glass and everyone was invited.
CSU showed some killer instinct
The Rams have been much more competitive than most would know by just glancing at their record this season (11-14, 3-9).
CSU has lost multiple tight games in the conference slate, including more than one that went to overtime. One of those OT losses was even to Air Force.
On Tuesday night, after going into the break leading 32-26, the Rams came out in the second half and said enough is enough. CSU played like a team that was tired of losing and buried Air Force over the final 20 minutes with relentless effort and by playing with intent on both ends.
CSU shot 57 percent from the floor in the second half and what really stood out was the decision making. They put up a couple of open looks from deep, but for the most part the Rams stuck with what was working. They were getting open mid-range looks and easy buckets in the paint, so that’s what the guys repeatedly looked for. And to their credit, they knocked them down.
On the other end of the floor, the Rams held the Falcons 35 percent shooting in the second half, which is a big reason why they were able to pull away for the 16 point win. When the game was on the line, a shorthanded Rams squad was able to step up and do enough defensively to challenge an Air Force offense that dropped 85 in the first meeting in Fort Collins.
Fruit of the labor
The Rams were due.
Niko Medved said after Tuesday’s loss to Utah State that if his team kept battling the way that they were, eventually they were going to get rewarded for it.
After coming up just short so many times this year, it was nice to see this group find a way to earn an in-state victory against a rival.