Despite gold jerseys and a “Gold Out” promotion, the CSU men’s basketball team was anything but gold Wednesday night at Moby Arena.
Led by 18 points from standout guard Preston Medlin, visiting Utah State controlled the game from start to finish en route to a 71-62 win that was much more lopsided than the final score indicated.
After a first half that players and coaches called their worst half this year against rival Air Force on Saturday, the Rams were even worse in the first twenty minutes against the Aggies.
Despite getting a host of good looks, the Rams simply couldn’t buy a basket in the first frame, shooting just 5-29 (17 percent) from the field and 0-7 from the 3-point line. Counter that with the Aggies shooting 44 percent from the field as well as hitting five of nine 3-pointers en route to a 29-15 halftime lead.
“Give Utah State a lot of credit they were the tougher, more determined team tonight but this game was over in the first ten minutes,” head coach Larry Eustachy said.
But unlike Saturday’s game against Air Force, a halftime rant by Eustachy didn’t do the trick as the Rams simply couldn’t overcome their porous first half shooting performance. Despite shooting 43 percent in the second half, CSU trailed by as many as 17 points with 3:11 to play before going on a run a 15-7 run to account for the final nine-point margin. Every time the Rams made a run, it was met with a timely basket by the Aggies, most of those coming from Medlin.
“He really gained some confidence at home last week and it showed today,” Utah State coach Stew Morrill said. “He’s really bounced back after a tough streak of games for him.”
For a team jockeying for position in a tightly-contested Mountain West Conference race, tonight was a big blow to a Rams squad who was 12-4 at home entering tonight’s matchup. After consecutive wins over UNLV and Air Force, guard Jon Octeus believes the Rams came into the game overconfidently and were abruptly brought back down to earth.
“We have to learn how to put those wins behind us and move on to the next game,” Octeus said. “The way we came out in the first half is unexplainable. We just have to be ready to go at all times, especially at this point in the season. There’s no excuse for the way we played in the first half — at all.”
And while the Rams were exponentially better in the second half and fought tooth and nail until the clock hit triple zeroes, Eustachy takes no solace in the sentiment that his team never gave up.
“I’m not into moral victories, like ‘We kept playing hard,'” Eustachy said. “You’re supposed to play hard. I think we learned a lot about ourselves tonight. This one is a good teaching tool and we just have to move on from it.”
Next Up: The Rams return to the road to face Fresno State on Saturday night. Tipoff is at 8pm MST and will be broadcast on ROOT Sports.
Collegian Reporter Keegan Pope can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @kpopecollegian.
Three Stars: Preston Medlin 18 points, 5 assists
Two Stars: Jon Octeus 22 points, 3 assists
One Star: Daniel Bejarano 21 points, 6 rebounds