Rams end the calendar year with a third-straight loss to visiting Aggies

Luke Zahlmann

With the final day of 2018 approaching, Colorado State was searching for multiple conclusions of their own. After a tumultuous year under previous coach Larry Eustachy, the team has flashed signs of progress under a new regime led by Niko Medved.

Despite an 88-68 loss to New Mexico State on Sunday, the final chapter of 2018 showed the potential of the program.

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“We’ve just got to continue to move forward,” Medved said. “I still have a high level of belief in these guys, I think they can still really grow and get better. I really believe that.”  

Early on against the visiting Aggies, it seemed the Rams were on their way towards ending the visitors’ seven-game win streak against Mountain West foes. Subsequently, the win would’ve also served as a conclusion their own two-game losing streak.

After allowing an opening 3-point make, the Rams held the lead for much of the first half, extending their margin to seven at one point.

Leading the way early was newcomer Adam Thistlewood, a new addition to the team under Medved. The freshman started the game with three-straight makes from the field with a pair coming from deep. In all, he tallied eight points in his flawless spree.

Both looks came under duress, something that was commonplace for the Rams early:

Outside of Thistlewood’s hot streak, the team struggled on offense. Halfway through the first half, those struggles came to fruition.

After leading for the six minutes prior, the Rams allowed a 26-6 run from the Aggies in the final 10 minutes, juxtaposing their lead into a 13-point deficit. The opposing run following a strong start is something that has plagued the Rams for much of the year.

“We have that disconnect in pretty much every game,” Anthony Masinton-Bonner said. “Until we figure that out, It’s going to be the same result.”

Despite an average of just 4.5 points per game entering the contest, NMSU’s C.J. Bobbitt found a groove. In the first half alone, the wing scored 14 points, one short of his season high.

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Entering the locker room, the Rams trailed 39-26, the catalyst for a reoccurring message of a ‘fighting spirit’ to resurface from Medved.

“No matter what, we’ve gotta have a good spirit about what we do,” Medved said. “I thought we had a great spirit to start the game, but I could see when they went on that run that guys were frustrated.”  

With a differed culprit, the results for the Aggies’ offense remained constant after the intermission.

After an opening half breakout from Bobbitt, Terrell Brown led the way for the visitors in several portions of the second half.

After scoring seven points in the first 10 minutes, Brown tallied eight points in the first seven minutes of the second half alone. The run included a pair of open 3-pointers with a layup falling away from the hoop intertwined.

The duo finished the road rout with 40 combined points, Bobbitt leading the way with a season-high 22. The pair also combined for only two turnovers.

Thistlewood and J.D. Page finished atop the Rams in scoring with 17 apiece.

A key deciding factor in the loss once again was a lack of rebounding for the Rams. Particularly on offense, the lack of boards for the Rams was nothing new. 

A man shoots a basketball
Nico Carvacho (32) tries for the rebound against two Razorback players during the Wednesday game. The game, held on December 5, 2018 saw the sixth straight win for the Razorbacks. (Josh Schroeder | Collegian)

In there last five games, the team has been outrebounded by a combined margin of 12, with three of the five being a losing battle down low.

“You can’t cheat the game of basketball,” Medved said. “Unfortunately, if you decide to take the easy way out sometimes, you usually get burned… Just because you’re small doesn’t mean you can’t be physical.”

The loss posed as the final out-of-conference matchup of the year for the Rams who will now head into 2019 preparing for more familiar opponents.

First up on the schedule for Medved’s squad is a trip to Las Vegas for a showdown in the Thomas & Mack Center for the first time since their MW tournament exit in March. Opposing the Rams will be a UNLV squad that is 6-6 on the year and riding a two-game losing streak of their own.

The matchup tips off at 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday.

“Everybody is 0-0, everyone gets a fresh start (in conference play),” Medved said. “I love this conference, I love conference play in general. I can’t wait to get going.”

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