FORT COLLINS –– The Colorado State men’s basketball team knew getting back into the swing of things would take some time Saturday at Moby Arena.
After struggling through a dangerously discombobulated start, the rust lingered a bit longer than the Rams anticipated in their first contest since Feb. 6.
In the first of two games against Air Force, the Rams needed more than five-and-a-half minutes to score after starting 0-of-7 from the floor. Nevertheless, CSU found its rhythm in concluding a three-week layoff in style with a 72-49 victory.
“It got a little frustrating, but not too much,” sophomore David Roddy said. “We just took it play by play and tried to execute. They run a unique defense. That was the first time we’ve ever seen that. So trying to figure that out and then getting our feet wet again was the biggest part of it. But as soon as we did, we started executing and started playing our basketball.”
Fifteen minutes in, sophomore Isaiah Stevens dribbled CSU’s ninth turnover off his foot as the hosts found themselves trailing 17-11. The 3-pointers weren’t falling either as the green and gold bricked seven consecutive 3s to open the game.
From there, though turnovers continued plaguing the Rams (15-4, 12-3 Mountain West), Medved’s group finally began clicking in just about every other aspect.
“My disappointment was the (20) turnovers,” Medved said. “We’re just gonna have to play a cleaner game than we did. But man, I’ll tell you what, we missed our first six 3s. But once we finally made a couple, we started to shoot the ball really well. If you give us open looks, I believe over the course of time, you’re gonna pay.”
Junior Adam Thistlewood knocked down a much-needed 3-pointer near the end of the first half to trim CSU’s deficit to 21-19. Fully sparking a previously ineffective offense, sophomore Isaiah Stevens then sunk back-to-back treys as the Rams acquired their first advantage –– which it never relinquished.
With David Roddy leading the way, CSU experienced no issues extending its 28-24 edge once the second half tipped off.
Following a relatively quiet 20 minutes, the Rams prioritized Roddy’s involvement in the low post. And the versatile big man rose to the occasion.
Roddy scored eight second-half points off 4-of-4 shooting by the 16:03 mark, on his way to tying Stevens with a game-high 19 points. The sophomore duo combined to hit 13-of-16 field goals.
Collectively, the Rams dominated the paint in the second half, hitting 13-of-14 2-pointers over the final 20 minutes. Overall, CSU shot 61% from the floor, hitting 9-of-22 3s.
“In the first half, we felt that even though we were getting some good looks, we could have done a better job of getting in the paint and attempting to make the defense collapse,” Stevens said. “Roddy definitely came out in that second half and set the tone for us. From that point on, we were pretty efficient and dominant in the paint as well.”
While CSU’s offense took time to find its footing, the defense needed no time at all to shake off the rust.
In fact, Saturday’s final represented the first time the Rams have held an opponent below 50 points since limiting Wyoming to 46 in 2013.
“We preached a ton about defense and just staying disciplined,” Stevens said. “Air Force is a team that’s gonna test your discipline. We’ve seen them time and time again on film, just torching different teams with their motion. You have to be ready to guard. They got us a few times. But overall, we’re proud of our defensive performance.”
Up next, Medved’s conference title-contending squad will look to seize its fifth sweep of the year when facing AFA (3-16, 5-18 MW) at 8 p.m. Monday.
With three games remaining on the regular-season slate, the Rams sit a half-game behind San Diego State for first place in the Mountain West.
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