CSU hindered by turnovers in 21-point loss to Fresno State

Luke Zahlmann

Interim coach Jase Herl was forced to face the other end of the spectrum of leading Colorado State men’s basketball as the Rams were routed by the Fresno State Bulldogs Saturday night, 86-65.

Interim head coach Jase Herl talks with his team during a time out in the first half against the San Jose Spartans. (Davis Bonner | Collegian)

Despite a lull from the start for the host Bulldogs, the Rams were unable to build a lead, only carrying small leads in the early going of the opening half. Early foul trouble served as a catalyst for the diminishment of the Rams lead as Nico Carvacho was forced to the bench with a pair of early fouls, leaving the lineup on the court severely undersized.

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On top of the mismatch of heights, the Rams were plagued early by turnovers, giving the ball away seven times in the first half, with a pair leading to a 9-0 run from the Bulldogs to flip the script and take a steady lead over the visitors.

The size difference left the Rams settling for contested shots, both inside and outside the paint. A lack of clarity on the offensive side led the Rams to shoot 36.7 percent from the field in the first half, a far cry from their offensive explosion in the first game of Herl’s stint.

“We tried to dig down in the post a little more off of Hopkins,” Herl said. “When they’d throw it in there, the other big could bluff and try to recover but a couple times they caught us with our head turned.”

A mix of their defense ceding the lane and the Bulldogs outmanning the Rams down low led to a large lead for the home team going into the locker room, 37-26, with the Bulldogs going on a 28-12 run to end the half. The underdog role suited the Rams well early on, but their lack of offensive production served as a hindrance to their upset chances.

Picking up the slack for the Rams was junior forward Deion James who was forced down low with the scant playing time for Carvacho early. James finished the contest with 12 points to go along with eight rebounds. The star of the game despite foul trouble was the aforementioned Carvacho who scored 14 to go with 11 boards of his own.

The locker room failed to reverse the course for the Rams as they trailed by double digits for nearly every tick of the second half.  The Bulldogs’ defense stifled the visitors all game and tightened down in transition throughout as the Rams only mustered a pair of fast break points.

Following their first bye of the year, the Rams came into their matchup against Fresno State well-rested and ready to continue the momentum they built against the Spartans of San Jose State. The break turned to rust for star guard Prentiss Nixon who failed to register a bucket in the game. Needing 19 to break the 1,000-point mark in her career, Nixon failed to capitalize.

“(Nixon) played hard, he did those things we ask him to do,” Herl said. “I thought he defended well, still had four assists and two turnovers but sometimes those shots aren’t falling. I thought he got fouled a couple times (that) they didn’t call which I think could have got him going.”

The constant shuffling of the coaching staff finally appeared to impact the Rams as they were out of sync throughout. The Rams ceded 52 points in the paint which served as the most glaring statistic in the loss. The constant inside pressure held true even with Carvacho on the floor for most of the second half.

“They out-executed us,” Herl said. “52 points in the paint. They converted our turnovers into 16 points and when you’re playing on the road you can’t afford to do that.”

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The Rams will return to Moby for a midweek showdown against Boise State as they look to flip their momentum going into the conference tournament. The Rams are 1-7 in their last eight games.

Collegian sports reporter Luke Zahlmann can be reached at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @lukezahlmann.