“No moral victories here”: Rams fall to Nevada despite valiant effort

Eddie Herz

The Nevada Wolfpack have a No. 6 next to their name for a reason; they know how to win games.

Despite a valiant all-around effort and powerful second-half surge, the Colorado State Rams fell to the Pack 98-82 at home.

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The final score indicates fans would have been inclined to leave early. However, the Rams were within striking distance for the majority of the second half and even pulled within three multiple times.

Led by Jordan Caroline and Caleb Martin, Nevada pulled away in the final three minutes to earn its 22nd win of the season. CSU now sits in ninth in the Mountain West at 9-14 (4-6).

Though the game didn’t play in CSU’s favor, the Rams outplayed Nevada in certain aspects. CSU shot 57 percent in the game compared to 47 percent from the Pack. The green and gold also scored 52 points in the paint while Nevada only scored 40.

Regardless, in the eyes of Colorado State, a loss is a loss.

“The thing I told the guys after the game was don’t let anybody tell you hey great job, you played a really great team close,” head coach Niko Medved said. “There are no moral victories here. That is a terrific team, but I thought we had some opportunities tonight. We just couldn’t do enough defensively.”

CSU couldn’t catch any breaks on Wednesday night, especially in the first half. Besides a few quick triggers from deep, the Rams played well enough to stay in the game early on. However, CSU faced a daunting 52-41 deficit at the end of the first half.

The green and gold shot 52 percent from inside the arc and kept pace with Nevada on the glass. UNR simply achieved everything it desired offensively during the opening frame, and its shooting only improved as the half progressed.

The score was tied at 11 six minutes into the game. Soon after, the patented Nevada scoring barrage commenced. Within what felt like a few seconds, UNR led 25-16.

Senior forward Jordan Caroline headlined Nevada’s 53 percent field goal percentage and 7-13 clip from deep in the early going. 

Caroline has had some impressive games considering he averaged 18.4 points per game heading into the matchup. But, not only did Caroline get it going tonight, he put forth the best game of his collegiate career.

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The forward scored 30 points on 9-11 shooting, including 6-6 from 3-point range in the first half alone. Overall, Caroline finished with 40.

“He is the type of player that can hurt you in all different ways,” redshirt junior Nico Carvacho said. “He is shooting it very well from three this year, and he just got hot, and they were just going in.”

The Pack’s advantage stretched to as many as 17 over the first 20 minutes. Led by Carvacho, who contributed 14 points and eight rebounds in the opening segment, CSU managed to cut into the lead before halftime.

The Rams took this momentum into the locker room and came out guns blazing in the second half. CSU stuck with the same style of play and penetrated in the paint, only this time the 3-pointers began to fall as well.

“We talked about it in the huddle, we wanted to cut it down to 10 before half,” Carvacho said. “We wanted to come out and continue chipping away at the lead. We didn’t want them to get hot and get their lead up. We wanted to get the crowd into it, and that is what we did.”

J.D. Paige provided a dunk before an Adam Thistlewood three quickly trimmed the disadvantage to seven points. The teams traded blows for a few more minutes until CSU made an even stronger push.

Anthony Masinton-Bonner knocked down an elbow-three which nearly tore the roof off Moby. This brought CSU within a bucket. Nevada answered, but the Rams came right back, this time in the form of a Carvacho lay in, making the score 67-64.

Overall, CSU converted 10-14 shots to begin the final half.

“It was a mindset,” Carvacho said. “We knew what they did to us at Reno, so we didn’t want that to happen again. We just tried to cut the deficit as much as we could.”

Good teams find ways to win though. Nevada never lost focus, and still assembled timely answers without Martin filling up the scoreboard in the second half.

CSU came back down to earth following the red-hot stretch that pulled the Rams within a few points. The Pack regained a double-digit lead with six minutes remaining.

Though the Rams came close multiple times, Medved’s group never led in the game.

“The better team you play, the less margin for error you have,” Medved said. “Your margin of error is very, very thin. You just can’t make mistakes. They have guys that can make shots even when you are playing really good defense.”

Carvacho totaled 24 points and 17 rebounds in the contest, as the center is now tied for the program lead in double-doubles (28), and is 20 boards away from the most in CSU history. Per usual, Paige came to life when the Rams needed him. The redshirt senior finished with 13 overall, 10 of which came in the second half.

“We should be disappointed because there are no moral victories here. But hopefully, you can take some confidence knowing that, hey, we played with these guys. If you want to have a chance in the conference tournament, you have to go through them.” (Medved)

Next up CSU heads to Laramie for the Border War against Wyoming. Tip-off is scheduled for 12 p.m. MT on Saturday.

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