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Colorado State’s Road to the Sweet 16: Volume 6

A good stretch ends in disappointment

(Check out Colorado State’s Road to the Sweet 16: Volume 5 here)

The 6 games since CSU lost to Wyoming:

CSU vs. SDSU - CSU 58-57 (17-3, 7-3 conf)

CSU @ Nevada - CSU 82-72 (18-3, 8-3 conf)

CSU vs. Fresno State - CSU 65-50 (19-3, 9-3 conf)

CSU @ Boise State - CSU 77-74 (20-3, 10-3 conf)

CSU @ New Mexico - CSU 83-68 (21-3, 11-3 conf)

CSU @ UNLV - UNLV 72-51 (21-4, 11-4 conf)

Those pesky Runnin’ Rebels.

CSU now has 4 losses on the year, all in-conference, with two of them coming at the hands of UNLV. Unfortunately, those two losses haven’t even been competitive. The Rams have been embarrassed by UNLV both times, losing by a combined 35 points.

Is it a matchup issue?

It very well could be.

More likely though, there’s a multitude of factors contributing to CSU’s struggles against this one particular team. It would be one thing if this was an opponent that was fighting for the conference championship, but it’s not. UNLV is 16-11, 5th in the Mountain West, and are a good, but not great team up to this point. Colorado State was the overwhelming favorite to win the Mountain West this year. So what’s the problem?

For one thing, I think UNLV is better than their record shows. They had a tough out-of-conference schedule where they fell short against some really good teams (UCLA, Michigan, San Francisco), and while they’ve done a little better in-conference, overall UNLV has underperformed. Bryce Hamilton is one of the best players in the Mountain West (especially against CSU), and they have athletes all over the floor. In my opinion, that should have translated to more wins for them at this point.

A concerning trend for Colorado State is that they have struggled with more athletic teams. Mississippi State gave them fits earlier in the year, and although they won that game, the problem arose again the first time they faced San Diego State. Now UNLV rolls over them twice, and all of a sudden we’re looking at a trend.

That could be a problem come March.

Luckily we’re living our best lives in February, and although the Rams have struggled against UNLV, they’ve done pretty darn good against everyone else.

Speaking of SDSU, the second matchup produced better results for the Rams. The Aztecs again gave CSU trouble with their defensive length, but CSU proved even better on the defensive end holding SDSU to 57 points.

CSU 58, SDSU 57

This was a weird game. Because while it was a huge win for CSU, bordering on “must-win,” the ending of this one left a sour taste in the mouth of Rams fans.

This game had all the looks of a beatdown. CSU was up by 20 points with 10 minutes left. Heck, they were up by 12 with 2:30 left. Only winning the game by 1 point felt like a disappointment in the moment. It would have been a major confidence boost to shock SDSU in the exact way they treated CSU in the first matchup. Instead, while they got a major win against a top-tier opponent, there was growing concern about how the Rams were finishing games.

CSU 82, Nevada 72

This game was controlled by CSU from start to finish.

Briefly though, what a disappointing year for Nevada. With all the expectations going into this year, for the Wolfpack to be 12-13 at this point has to sting. They’ve dealt with their fair share of injuries, but still.

Roddy killed it in this game, like he normally does, demonstrating ultra-efficiency by going 11-14 from the field for 29 points. Nevada simply didn’t have anyone to stop Roddy, and he made them pay. Kendall Moore also had his best game of the year up to this point, scoring 22 points on 7-12 shooting, 4-7 from 3.

CSU 65, Fresno State 50

One of the more impressive wins of the year for Colorado State. There are so many good teams in this league this year, and Fresno State is one of them. This game was in the balance early in the second half, and could have gone either way. Leading 37-36, with 14:30 left to play, CSU pulled away in dramatic fashion, finishing the Bulldogs off with a 28-14 run to end the game.

With FSU big man Orlando Robinson and David Roddy essentially canceling each other out, CSU needed a solid game from their second star Isaiah Stevens. Stevens delivered. 14 points on 6-9 shooting did the job, with help from John Tonje and James Moors, who had 10 and 11 points, respectively.

CSU 77, Boise State 74 OT

What a great game this was.

All I remember from this game was being hungover on my couch, recovering from a long weekend at the Waste Management Open in Phoenix, AZ, yelling at the TV in support of Chandler Jacobs.

CSU’s super-utility man absolutely took over this game. Jacobs scored 11 of his 16 points from the 1:16 mark left in regulation, and overtime. A few days later, I was able to catch up with the man himself for a 30-minute conversation about this game, his journey in college basketball, and how he’s liking his time thus far at CSU. You can find that interview here.

What a huge win for CSU. A close one throughout, this was a physical game. And for the first time all year, I thought the MW officials did a good job of letting them play.

Things did get a little hairy at the end though.

With 2 seconds left in regulation, the game tied, and CSU with possession, Isaiah Stevens uncharacteristically turned the ball over. As Boise State was trying to get out in transition for a last-second heave, Stevens bumped into Abu Kigab of BSU, forcing him to the sideline. Boise State was in the bonus. Luckily, no foul was called on Stevens and the game went to overtime. A fortunate break for a team that’s been on the bad end of their fair share of late-game calls this year.

Anyways, CSU ended up winning the game in overtime, and BSU will get a chance for revenge on March 5th, when they meet again for the last regular-season game before the Mountain West tournament.

CSU 83, New Mexico 68

I was nervous for my Rams going into this one.

I’ve detailed my admiration for what an awesome home venue New Mexico has at The Pit, and I was curious how CSU was going to handle that environment, particularly because the Lobos played Colorado State extremely tough the first time they met in Fort Collins.

Worries be damned, CSU handled business. David Roddy took over, scoring 31 points on 14-20 shooting in his Pit debut. Actually, before this year, CSU’s seniors Adam Thistlewood and Kendle Moore were the only two guys on this year's team that had played at The Pit. The Rams showed a lot of resiliency in that environment, coming out with an important W.

UNLV 72, CSU 51

I don’t want to keep harping on this one. It was gross. That’s all that needs to be said at this time.

Next up:

CSU has a rematch against rival Wyoming, this time at home in Fort Collins. This first matchup was a heartbreaker for the Rams, losing 84-78 in overtime after a missed David Roddy free throw. This is a huge game for CSU if they still want a chance at the regular-season Mountain West crown.

Wyoming @ CSU, Wednesday 2/23 @5pm MST, on CBS Sports Network