Rams soar past Falcons behind the lead of familiar faces

Luke Zahlmann

The formula regarding lineup construction for Niko Medved has been an everchanging one thus far. Through the season’s first 21 games, Colorado State has put forth four different lineup combinations, with only one of the four changing due to injury.

With the team near full strength once again, Medved appears to be cracking the code.

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Medved has settled on a starting five of Nico Carvacho, Adam Thistlewood, Kris Martin, J.D. Paige and Kendle Moore that has been stagnant since their double-digit win over New Mexico Jan. 12, with Anthony Masinton-Bonner and Hyron Edwards coming off the bench.

The lineup proved to be successful against Air Force once again as CSU won 85-53.

The final margin was the second-largest in the rivalry’s history. 

In their second and final regular-season contest against the Falcons, the game paid homage to the Rams prior victory. 

man raises arms in the air
Kris Martin (30) raises his arms in the air in celebration when J.D. Paige (22) jumps dunks the basketball. The Rams lost to the Buffaloes 86-80 Dec. 1 in Boulder. (Matt Begeman | Collegian)

From the onset, courtesy of a Martin 3-pointer, the Rams held the lead in the opening half, a margin they maintained for the game’s entirety. 

With a hefty Rams’ contingency backing their efforts, the visitors jumped out to an early lead buoyed by the leadership of their backcourt.

Of the team’s first 16 points, 14 came from the hand of a Rams guard. After Martin scored the first three points, Bonner scored five of the next 11 off of the bench.

Though their guards led the scoring charge, the rebounding was a communal effort. In the first half, the Rams outrebounded the Falcons 18-9. Their stronghold on the interior, paired with a hot streak from outside, led to lopsided efficiency as well.

“Any time you can score (in the paint), you can score from three,” Medved said. “We only made one 3-pointer in the first half, but we were able to keep attacking … it all starts with getting easy baskets.” 

In the first half, the Rams shot a blistering 63 percent from the field en route to their 42-25 halftime lead. The hosts, plagued by outside woes, shot only 38.5 percent from the field, nailing only 5-of-16 3-point attempts.

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Among Carvacho’s first-half bounty, the big man passed Rich Strong on the program’s career rebounds list. His new total of 815—following his 14th double-double on the year (20 points, 14 rebounds)—sits at second, only 36 shy of Pat Durham for the program’s top tally (851). 

Nico Carvacho attempts to break through during the game against San Houston State on Dec. 8. The Rams won 71-65. (Tony Villalobos May | Collegian)

“I’m trying to get that one spot here soon,” Carvacho said. 

With their third lopsided half of 2019 in as many tries against the Falcons, the Rams continued their roll out of the intermission.

In the concluding half’s first 10 minutes, the Rams outscored the Falcons 23-11. The stretch included an 8-0 run and a pair of Falcon’s scoreless sprees, each lasting over three minutes.

After an early surge from their guards, the Rams followed the lead of their bigs en route to extending their lead. After 20 points in the paint in the first half, CSU tacked on 18 in the second to bring their total to 38 following the lead of Carvacho. 

In comparison, the Falcons only garnered 11 points inside.

“I think it was (Carvacho’s) third and-one of the second half, (I told him) ‘you a beast’,” Bonner said. “We know what he (brings) every night.” 

With their offense relegated to beyond the arc, the Falcons shooting percentage suffered. Their 27.6-percent mark from outside was down from their season average of 31.8, an average that sat dead last in the Mountain West prior to the bout.

“We put defense before offense this game,” Bonner said. “We let our defense create our offense and when we do that, I don’t think anyone can beat us.” 

In their cruise to the finish, the Rams played seven separate players double-digit minutes. In all, 10 of the 12 Rams that touched the floor scored in the matchup, much to the delight of the guys on the bench. 

“(The guys on the bench) come to practice every single day not knowing if they’re going to play,” Carvacho said. “(They) give us the best look on scout team and play hard and they’re always there for us … It’s something we gotta do for them.”

The Rams will head home to prepare for their final regular season contest against the leader of the MW, No. 7 Nevada. In the two team’s last game, the Rams succumbed to a close halftime tally, falling 100-60.

Tip-off is set for 8 p.m. Wednesday with the hosts dawning their State Pride uniforms.

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