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Rams takeaways: Colorado State sweeps the season series against Air Force for the fourth year in a row
DENVER — 15-1.
Colorado State secured its best 16-game start in program history Saturday with a 73-53 victory over Air Force at Clune Arena. After taking down the Falcons, the Rams have now won eight straight against their Mountain West rival from down I-25 and CSU remains undefeated against Air Force during the Niko Medved era.
The Falcons have never exactly been a powerhouse on the hardwood, but beating an in-state conference rival twice a year for close to half a decade is certainly impressive. The 2021-22 Falcons have proven to be particularly feisty too, especially on their home floor, as they already had wins over Utah State and UNLV in Colorado Springs prior to the Rams coming to town. So, a 20 point win by the Green & Gold, nearly double the pregame spread, is definitely encouraging.
What was also encouraging in the victory was CSU’s bench production. The Rams got 28 points out of the reserves on Saturday and that was even with Chandler Jacobs in the starting five due to Adam Thistlewood’s injury. John Tonje played a big part in that by going 4-of-5 from the floor and scoring 15 points in just 17 minutes. Isaiah Rivera also made the most of the opportunity, though, finishing with 8 points on 3-of-3 shooting in 19 minutes.
Rivera got some extended run after Isaiah Stevens uncharacteristically picked up a pair of early fouls, and while he did show some inexperience on defense, his hustle was evident. The sophomore grabbed seven rebounds in 19 minutes and what was good to see was that he didn’t try to force things offensively when he got an earlier chance to play than usual. If CSU is going to make a deep run in the postseason, depth is going to play a factor as the minutes begin to add up for this team. Getting guys like Rivera quality minutes on the road will continue to benefit the Green & Gold long-term.
Here are the other takeaways from CSU’s fifth conference win in six opportunities.
Just getting started. 📈
— DNVR Rams (@DNVR_Rams) January 22, 2022
Isaiah Stevens showed his killer instinct
Stevens had a modest first half with 6 points on 3-of-5 shooting. Over the final 20 minutes, though, CSU’s junior point guard swept the leg in a Cobra Kai fashion. He was a perfect 5-of-5 from the floor, scoring 12 points and he really set the tone in what was a dominant offensive half of basketball by the Rams. As a team CSU shot 69.6 percent in the second half, which was a big reason why the lead exploded, even with Air Force scoring 19 more points than they did in the first (36 vs. 17).
While Stevens deserves high praise for his role in the close-out, Tonje had 10 down the stretch, and Roddy scored 8 points in the second half too. Aside from nine turnovers in the second and 16 total — far too many for a group with this much experience — the offense looked pretty good as a whole when the game was there for the taking.
The Rams still missed too many open looks in this one, especially out of the gate, so that’s a concerning trend we’ll have to keep an eye on. But honestly, coaches can live with missed shots when they are open opportunities that were created well. If CSU can continue to move the ball unselfishly and capitalize in the paint, eventually some of those shots from along the perimeter are going to fall. This team has too many good shooters for the numbers to not eventually even out in favor of the Rams.
Kendle looked Moore like his old self
Kendle Moore’s production has been down this season, so I think all of Ram Nation smiled when the senior guard scored 9 points just 48 hours after getting held scoreless in the win over the Lobos.
Moore doesn’t need to carry this team on the offensive end, his efforts on the other end are much more important in the grand scheme of things. While he doesn’t need to be a primary scorer, Moore does need to be able to occasionally hit an open three and use his speed to get to the rim every now and then. On Saturday he was able to do both, and most importantly, it was when the Rams really lacked a spark early.
Everyone on the team has full faith in Moore and they absolutely should, he’s more than earned that respect over the course of his career. Sometimes it just takes a couple of made baskets to reignite a player’s confidence. Hopefully Saturday will be the catalyst for a strong final stretch from one of CSU’s most experienced hoopsters.
David Roddy nearly broke the rim
Outside of a buzzer-beater there are few things on the basketball court that can truly make the audience absolutely lose their minds. A monster dunk over a cowering defender is one of those things, though, and Roddy got himself a poster jam on Saturday.
Roddy with the best in-game dunk I’ve seen a Ram throw down in quite some time pic.twitter.com/DTtm9Bxltk
— Justin Michael (@JustinTMichael) January 22, 2022
With CSU leading by 13 at the 16:45 mark of the second half, ‘D-Rod’ got an open lane to the hoop and exploded over Lucas Moerman to throw down a one-handed dunk that looked like it hurt the rim. It was the type of in-game highlight play doesn’t come along very often and Roddy made sure not to miss his chance.
Considering the score at the time, CSU was pretty firmly in control of the contest. But the dunk felt like an exclamation point from the Rams, a sign that the road team had every intention of burying the Falcons on their home floor, which is exactly what CSU did.
Next up: Nevada at Moby Arena on Tuesday.