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DENVER — It was fun while it lasted but No. 20 Colorado State (11-1,1-1) is undefeated no more. The Rams were bullied on the road by San Diego State (10-3, 2-0), ultimately falling 79-49 to the Aztecs at Viejas Arena on Saturday.
It was a brutal game for CSU on the offensive end, as the Rams were completely smothered by the Aztecs and struggled to make much of anything from the floor. On multiple occasions the Green & Gold went 5 minutes of game time or more without scoring a field goal. And the Rams recorded a season-high 17 turnovers in what was just a really long afternoon for a team playing its second game off of a 24 day COVID-19 pause.
“We’ll learn from it. As much as it hurts and it should, I have no doubts that this team will respond,” Niko Medved said postgame.
As a team the Rams finished 12-of-43 from the floor. The shooting percentage of 27.8 was CSU’s lowest of the season. It was their worst day from 3-point range (15 percent). And the Rams scored the lowest amount of points they have in any game so far.
In addition to not being able to buy a bucket themselves, CSU struggled to contain the Aztecs on the other end. SDSU came in averaging just 58 points per game (314th in the country). Through the first 12 games of the 2021-22 campaign they shot just 17 percent from beyond the 3-point arc (329th). You never would have guessed that based on Saturday’s outcome though. The Aztecs, led by Matt Bradley, went 8-of-17 (47 percent) from deep. Bradley led all scorers in the game with 26 points on 10-of-17 shooting. The Cal transfer carried SDSU throughout and really was clutch with 3-point shooting in the victory (4-of-6).
Medved credited Bradley for hitting tough shots. He praised SDSU’s offensive potency in general and the impact it had on CSU. “I think they made eight of their first nine threes and I thought we kind of let that affect our intensity and our physicality on the defensive end. And they just kind of overwhelmed us. They got back about half of their misses and Bradley got going, and I just thought emotionally and physically we struggled to handle that and got overwhelmed in the second half.”
SDSU outscored CSU 43-17 over the final 20 minutes and really cemented the victory. While the Rams were much closer than the final outcome indicates for a substantial part of the game and trailed by just 4 points at halftime, the Aztecs were pretty much in control throughout. They led for 30:22 and outside of a couple of CSU runs they didn’t have much to worry about.
“Today wasn’t our day,” Medved said. “They beat us in every way. I mean, you name it. We turned the ball over. We turned down good shots to drive it into traffic. We didn’t gain rebounds, we didn’t execute, we didn’t do a good job of bringing help when we needed to. And then, you know, you’ve gotta give them credit too. Matt Bradley, he got hot and we just really didn’t have much of an answer for him.”
Isaiah Stevens led the Rams in scoring with 19 points. He had three rebounds and hit all seven of his free throw attempts, but recorded zero assists in the loss. After dishing out at least three dimes in CSU’s first 10 games, the junior point guard had two total in CSU’s two matchups this week.
Following the blowout loss, Stevens told the press that the Rams need to come away from this game tougher both physically and emotionally. He explained that the team has to be able to deal with a hostile environment and still execute at a high level. He did add that he feels the guys are still getting back into a rhythm, though, so it’s important to also remain level headed and stick together.
It’s been a couple of years since the Rams consistently played in front of opposing crowds, at least without capacity restrictions. Stevens is looking forward to experiencing more atmospheres like what they played in on Saturday as CSU progresses through the league slate.
“It’s definitely going to be exciting to go around the conference and play in these arenas,” Stevens said. “I feel like it’s going to be cool for us to get that experience. There’s not a better way to learn what it’s going to be like for the rest of the year than playing at Viejas (Arena).”
Along with Stevens, David Roddy scored 17 points and hit eight of 10 free throw attempts. Roddy led the Rams with four rebounds, however, the Rams as a whole really struggled to contain SDSU on the glass. The Aztecs out-rebounded the Rams 38-21 and finished with twice as many offensive boards (14 vs. 7). There really wasn’t an area where SDSU was outperformed by the visiting ranked foes.
After a humbling loss the Rams must lick their wounds and move on quickly with Utah State scheduled to come to town on Wednesday. While there may have been extenuating circumstances leading up to the trip to San Diego, the Rams know the Aggies are waiting for them and are going to be just as eager to try to take them down.
“We’ve got to pick ourselves up,” Stevens said. “Who wants to actually learn from it? Everybody gets whooped every now and then, so we’ll take it on the chin.”
“We definitely can’t flush it but we’re 11-1,” Medved said. “I can promise you we won’t be the last team losing at Viejas (Arena) this season. I hate how we played, especially in the second half. I do. But it’s a loss. Whether you lose (big) or not it’s a loss. And we’ll move on. And we’ll get better. I’ve got no doubt that this team will respond from it.”