Cowboys surrender border to Rams, splitting annual season series

Luke Zahlmann

In effort, aggressiveness and total score, Colorado State trailed for the entirety of the first iteration of the Border War against Wyoming. The overwhelming effort from Wyoming led to players bringing brooms to Moby Arena, signaling it was time for the sweep. 

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For their second and final matchup of the regular season, adorned in orange and with a chip on their shoulder from the Cowboys’ pregame antics, the Rams forgot about their previous result, bucking the Cowboys, 83-48.

The reversal began early. On the Rams opening possession, Kris Martin attempted to drive the lane, drawing a charge call instead. Though the play resulted in a turnover, Martin set the tone for the Rams—an intensity that was lacking in their previous matchup.

“I didn’t want to start the game off with a turnover,” Martin said. “But, I guess it did send a message that ‘we’re attacking (you),’ and we’re going to be aggressive all game.” 

“We (saw) them walk in with the brooms, we wanted to set the tone early,” added J.D. Paige.

After Justin James sank his first attempt on the subsequent possession, the Rams went on a 17-3 run, a spree that included a 13-0 margin prior to its conclusion. Leading the way for the hometown squad was Nico Carvacho.

Guarding Carvacho for the early portions of the game was Hunter Thompson. When the Cowboys allowed the big man to operate sans a double team, he made the visitors pay.

When the Cowboys sent a help defender to aid Thompson’s efforts, Carvacho passed it out to Kendle Moore. The strategy resulted in six points for each, Moore’s back-to-back conversions from outside serving as a catalyst for the Rams’ early margin.

A media timeout disrupted the Rams’ flow, but their short-term woes subsided with a jolt from their backcourt.

After Hyron Edwards tipped a Wyoming pass, Anthony Masinton-Bonner caught the errant ball, charging down the court, Edwards and Kris Martin by his side. Each touched the ball as an Edwards touch pass led to a Martin acrobatic layup, igniting the Moby Arena faithful, bringing the Rams lead to 13:

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In the opening frame, the Rams held the opposition to 25 percent from the field, a far cry from their 52.2-percent mark in the opening half of their win in Laramie.

“Defensively, especially early, we were pretty good,” Coach Niko Medved said. “Justin James is just a terrific player… but I thought, early, we did a pretty nice job of disrupting him. Some of the double teams we sent, I thought, bothered him.” 

After an eight-point first half, James turned it on for the Cowboys after the break. Of the team’s first nine second-half points, the guard accounted for six, pushing his total to 14. With 36 points in the two team’s first meeting, the plan set forth by Medved was to limit them elsewhere.

“He’s a good player so he’s going to play well, he’s going to get his shots,” Martin said. “As long as we stop everyone else from having an impact and affecting the game, we have a good chance of winning.”

With a 9-3 run to open the second stanza, the Cowboys brought different energy after the intermission. The energy was paired with a renewed aggression, forcing the Rams to answer.

Once again answering the call was Carvacho.

After a Thompson foul on Martin down low, the Rams big man took exception, shoving Thompson and drawing a technical foul, spurring an altercation between teams. Though the dispute was quickly cleared up, the foul sent a message.

The scuffle brought the crowd back to life, all 5,026 fans aiding. Prior to the game, the Rams attendance waivered, sitting ninth in the conference at only 2,680 per game. In the Border War, their efforts didn’t go unnoticed.

“(Assistant Coach) Pierce Hornung’s freshman year, that was the first Orange Out game. It was something we kind of started,” Medved said. “It’s caught on like wildfire, all the sports… this is always a cool day.” 

J.D. Paige shoots from the 3-point line as CSU takes on WYO. The Rams win 83-48. (Devin Cornelius | Collegian)

Carvacho and company held the lead for the second halves’ entirety, elevating their margin to 35 at one point.

With 8:02 left in the contest, Bonner stole the ball at one end, sinking a 3-point attempt from the top of the key on the other. The fruitful possession served as a dagger for the Rams, putting them up by 24.

Along with sealing the game, the successful attempt also gave Bonner his first points of the game, ensuring each Ram that played double-digit minutes in the game played a role in their offensive efforts.

The outputs served as a hindrance to an outburst from James in the final half of the game. After six early points, James tacked on 15 more in the half to bring his game-leading total to 29 with a pair of assists. The guard accounted for 71 percent of the team’s scoring on the day, aiding his season contribution of 61 percent of the team’s offense.

With their win streak now at a pair, the Rams will head to Boise, Idaho to take on Boise State University at Taco Bell Arena. The visitors will look to counter their two-point loss earlier in the year at the hands of the Broncos. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.

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