Herz: CSU struggles to find their footing over winter break

Eddie Herz

While Colorado State University students enjoyed their long winter break, the men’s basketball team was busy in action.

The Rams played eight games since the fall finals week, and now find themselves in eighth place in the Mountain West with a 7-11 (2-3) record.

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After beating Sam Houston State at home Dec. 8 to pull to an even 5-5 this season, CSU lost five consecutive games, including its first two conference contests.

The Rams then won back-to-back games at Moby Arena over Air Force and University of New Mexico before losing their most recent game to Utah State last Saturday.

The same issue which has plagued Coach Niko Medved’s struggling team carried over to the new year: More guards, more problems.

Texas Tech transfer guard Hyron Edwards became eligible to compete when winter break began. The redshirt junior averages 7.9 points per game over eight contests and has scored a combined 34 points in his past two outings.

Though Edwards has provided CSU with another solid scoring option, his contributions haven’t done much to aid the Rams’ most significant area of concern: rebounding.

In other words, while Edwards’ level of play may be beneficial, CSU needs the emergence of another forward.

Despite a starting lineup featuring redshirt junior forward Nico Carvacho, who leads the NCAA in rebounding with an average of 12.3 boards per game, CSU still struggles controlling the glass. The Rams currently rank 272 out of 353 Division I teams in rebounding (34.1 per game).

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)

To put the issue into perspective, CSU went 0-5 over winter break when the program failed to hold a rebounding advantage over its opponent. Overall, Medved’s bunch has won only one game this season in which it was out-rebounded.

High of winter break

Though CSU’s progress—or lack thereof—over the holidays wasn’t very remarkable, there was an obvious high point for the green and gold.

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With upcoming games on the road against both Utah State and No. 7 Nevada, picking up a victory over University of New Mexico Lobos at home last week was something the Rams desperately needed. 

In an all-around balanced performance, CSU defeated the Lobos 91-76 behind 56.1 percent shooting from the floor and 20 points off the bench from Hyron Edwards.

Besides Edwards, four other Rams reached double-digit scoring, with a notable 16 points from freshman forward Adam Thistlewood on a career-best four converted 3-pointers. 

The decisive victory improved the Rams record to 2-2 in conference play.

Low of winter break

For a team that isn’t going to be favored in many Mountain West games this season, CSU needs to take advantage of the games in which it seemingly has an above average chance of winning.

The Rams have done so in the majority of these scenarios thus far in conference play, specifically by beating Air Force and New Mexico.

However, CSU squandered the opportunity to begin conference play 1-0 by falling late to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas Jan. 2.

The Rams traveled to Las Vegas for the game, and the Rebels were favored. But UNLV wasn’t exactly playing the best basketball heading into the contest.

The Rebels had lost their past two home games to Indiana State and Bucknell before hosting the Rams.

CSU dominated the opening 20 minutes and held a seven-point advantage at halftime. The Rams carried this momentum into the second half and led by eight points with less than five minutes remaining in the game.

UNLV then assembled an 8-0 run to completely shift the momentum and tie the game with 2:03 remaining. CSU regained the lead seconds later but lost 78-76 on a last-second layup.

Going forward, the Rams will face their toughest opponent in conference play Wednesday, Jan. 23 at No. 7 Nevada. Tip-off is set for 9 p.m.

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