Herz: Focal points for CSU basketball at home against Montana State

Eddie Herz

The Colorado State Rams will attempt to conclude their season-opening homestand with a perfect 3-0 record when they square off with the Montana State University Bobcats Wednesday night at 7 p.m.

CSU played to the tune of a high-powered, up-tempo offense, as well as an overwhelming defense through two games this season.

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The Rams scored 90 points and held both Colorado Christian University and the University of Arkansas Pine Bluff under 70 points to begin the season.

CSU has plenty of reasons to feel good about itself heading into the Wednesday night matchup. The Rams experienced no issues transitioning into new Coach Niko Medved’s style of play.

Player pumps up the crowd
Kendle Moore (3) pumps the crowd up and celebrates after making a big play for CSU. The Rams defeat the Cougars 100-63.(Devin Cornelius | Collegian)

The Bobcats aren’t off to an ideal start after stumbling to a 13-19 record last season. The cards are stacked against the visitors in their attempt to break an eight-season streak of finishing at or below .500.

The Bobcats most recently earned their first victory of the season over Presbyterian College after losing to the University of Indiana and Utah State University by an average of 38 points.

Here are the three keys for the Rams to stay undefeated before heading to Fort Myers, Florida for the remaining portion of the 2018 Gulf Coast Showcase.

Create and capitalize on turnovers in transition.

Rebounding and properly utilizing physical advantages fueled the Rams’ stout defense so far this season.

When the Rams have induced turnovers, they have done a nice job of running the floor and scoring in transition. However, they have not created many turnovers through two games.

Rams’ opponents turned the ball over 16 times this season, which resulted in 24 points for CSU.

In terms of their latest opponent, the Bobcats aren’t a great rebounding team. So, expect the Rams to hold a rebounding advantage once again with a tendency to turning the ball over. 

The Bobcats accumulated 25 turnovers in an 80-35 blowout defeat against the Hoosiers, taking them out of the game early. Additionally, the offense coughed the ball up 15 times in its only victory of the season over Presbyterian College. The Bobcats’ lowly opponent only totalled 13 turnovers.

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The Rams proved that they are more than capable of capitalizing on turnovers in transition. Now, it would be nice to see them do this in a large quantity against a team who struggles to avoid takeaways.

Limit offensive production from Keljin Blevins and Tyler Hall.

Though the Bobcats struggled early on, problems would be worse if it weren’t for the duo of seniors Keljin Blevins and Tyler Hall.

A University of Southern Missippi transfer, Blevins leads the Bobcats in both scoring (15.7 points per game) and rebounding (eight rebounds per game).

Blevins is Montana State’s best player by a large margin as the forward has also shot over 50 percent from the floor in three games this season.

Carvacho lay-up
Nico Carvacho (32) with two of his 12 total points after a fast-break steal lay-up during the 1st half of the Rams 76-71 loss to the Falcons. (Javon Harris | Collegian)

The next-best Bobcat is Hall. The 6-foot-5 guard is averaging 12.3 points as well as 2.3 assists per game.

The senior duo combine for 44 percent of the Bobcats’ scoring. When these two players are shut down, the Bobcats don’t have many secondary options. Their depth from last season took a shot when five of their eight leading contributors departed the program.

If the Rams can immediately contain either Blevins or Hall, it will be difficult for the opposition to keep up.

Blevins and Hall each average three turnovers per game, more than anyone else on the team. So, a relevant way to restrict both players would be to double-team them upon receiving the ball in an attempt to influence a turnover.

Keep the ball rolling. Literally.

Moving the ball around effectively has aided the Rams’ offensive production thus far.

The ball movement has a lot to do with sticking to Medved’s scheme, which encourages multiple players to touch the ball on as many possessions as possible.

Player passes
J.D. Paige (22) passes the ball to a teammate as the Rams battle the Golden Lions. The Rams win 92-67.(Devin Cornelius | Collegian)

Last season, the Rams combined for 13 assists per game on average. Only one or two players touched the ball in many posessions.

That is not the case this season. Every player on the floor earns a touch often for CSU. As a result, the Rams have amassed 21 assists in both games this season.

Being able to rotate the ball efficiently creates space and opportunities to score. If the Rams can do this all season, the offense will be a strong suit. Six different Rams are averaging at least 12 points per game.

Keeping the ball moving and creating good looks from passing the ball at a high rate will be pivotal. Ideally, for Medved, the Rams will continue the trend in every game moving forward.

Eddie Herz can be reached at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @Eddie_Herz.