Rams bear down, overcome Sam Houston State’s energy with late run

Luke Zahlmann

Coming into their matchup against Sam Houston State, the Colorado State Rams were engrained in their first losing streak under new coach Niko Medved. Seeking to halt the streak at four, Nico Carvacho led the charge, fronting the Rams tight-knit win, 71-65.

Despite the big man scoring the Rams’ first six points, the victory was communal. Freshman Kendle Moore doing his best Kyrie Irving impression at the rim only furthered the efforts:

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Entering the matchup as underdogs, the Bearkats sought to pester. Whether it was a full-court press to begin the game or constant trapping down low, the visitors were instituting a game plan of annoyance.

That hounding forced several problems for the Rams’ offense. In the half-court, open lanes and shots were seldom found.

“They were executing with a great pace,” redshirt senior J.D. Paige said. “They caught us off guard a couple times… they got in transition a lot.” 

In the first frame alone, the Rams turned the ball over 11 times behind eight steals from the Bearkats. The opposition also tallied 16 points off of their forced turnovers. Outside of Carvacho taking advantage of his size down low (12 points), the four other Rams’ starters accumulated 15 combined points.

“I got into a groove quick (and wanted) to keep it throughout the game,” Carvacho said. “I had to do this so we could get a (win). I’m not trying to lose five straight games.” 

Their struggles notwithstanding, the Rams turned a late 11-point deficit into just three going into the intermission, with the charge featuring yet another contested finish at the rim from Moore:

A gameplan led by offense through their big man resurrected itself once again in the second half. Carvacho, with a game-high 12 points in the first half, posted the first four points in the closing frame as well.

In the final 10 minutes of the game, things changed for the Rams. Led once again by the rebounding prowess of Carvacho, the hosts began to garner steam. A run of over five minutes without a field goal from the Bearkats allowed the Rams to rumble back.

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“It was a frustrating game for us on offense,” Medved said. “(At the 10-minute mark) I sensed at least from the bench that the energy level cranked up a couple of notches. We made the plays we needed to make.”

As the comeback reached a boiling point, so did the crowd of Moby Arena. Behind the urges of Assitant Coach Dave Thorson pumping his arms furiously during a timeout, the acclaimed Moby Madness reached its apex.

The turning point came by way of a pair of layups from redshirt junior Anthony Masinton-Bonner and Paige, each coming on fast breaks. With just over five minutes remaining, the Rams had found the momentum they sought.

From that point forward, the Rams didn’t yield the lead. The home team, after a sluggish start, garnered their best five-minute stretch on the defensive end of the floor. 

J.D. Paige sprints against San Houston during the game against Sam Houston State Dec. 8. The Rams won 71-65. (Tony Villalobos May | Collegian)

“You look at what Nico did (today), he just willed us,” Medved said. “He was like ‘hey we’re not losing this game’ and he’s got an amazing heart. I thought (Paige and Carvacho) really got it done on both ends of the floor.” 

In the end, Carvacho wrapped up a season-best double-double with 20 points and 19 boards. A fellow Rams’ veteran, Paige finished with game-high 23 points, making all but one of his shots inside the arc. 

As a team, the Rams went to the free-throw line 28 times compared to just 10 for the Bearkats. The margin at the charity stripe proved to be the difference in the game. 

“We knew going into the game that they were one of the worst teams in fouling,” Carvacho said. “(We knew if we) keep on driving the ball, we’ll get to the line.” 

The Rams will have eight days off before their next contest against the University of South Dakota at home Dec. 16 at Moby Arena. The Rams eleventh game of the year is set to tip off at 2 p.m.

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