Takeaways from a crucial Rams win in the Spud State

Luke Zahlmann

A quick glance at the Mountain West standings showed both Boise State and Colorado State knotted at 6-8 in conference play, the Broncos holding the edge with a head-to-head tiebreaker prior to their final of two meetings.

After their 76-62 win on the road Wednesday night, the Rams overtook their foes, climbing to seventh in the conference and positioning themselves nicely for the MW tournament.

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If the current alignment stands, the Rams will play the second game of the opening day in Las Vegas, Nevada. Prior to their win, Niko Medved and company were set to play the early matchup, a nightmare for any traveling squad.

With their win, several storylines came about.

Getting a win over Boise was personal for Carvacho

From the game’s onset, Nico Carvacho played with his ‘hair on fire,’ as Medved often puts it.

The big man converted a trio of hook shots for the team’s first six points, taking advantage of a lack of size for the hosts.

Player dunks
Nico Carvacho (32) dunks the ball after a fastbreak as the Rams battle the MSU Bobcats. The Rams won 81-77. (Devin Cornelius | Collegian)

“Just another day at the office for him,” Medved said. “Looks like a first team all-league player to me.”

En route to his 19th double-double of the year, Carvacho also contributed largely to the team’s efforts on the boards. With the 19-point, 14-rebound outburst, he also totaled his ninth double-double in the team’s last 11 bouts.

With 14 of the team’s 32 total boards, Carvacho once again flashed the prowess that has led the nation in rebounds per game this year.

The energy that Carvacho showed rubbed off on the rest of the team, with each Rams’ player playing pesky defense and sparking transition offense that tallied 15 points.

With Carvacho leading the way, the Rams have been a large problem for even the best teams in the conference.

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Bend but don’t break scheme for defense is paying off

Against Wyoming, the Rams gave way to another breakout effort from Justin James. Outside of the Cowboys’ star, there wasn’t a single player that accrued double-digit scoring.

Versus the Broncos, the same theory was instilled. The Rams chose to let Justinian Jessup buoy the team’s scoring efforts while limiting the other scorers of the hosts.

Jessup racked up 25 points in the game with a 10-of-17 mark from the field. Outside of their leader, the Broncos were reeling.

J.D Paige (22) celebrates after a huge dunk over three Cowboy defenders during the 1st half of the Rams 78-73 win over rival Wyoming in Laramie. Paige finished with 14 points. (Javon Harris | Collegian)

Sans Jessup’s efforts, the Broncos scored 37 as a team, with only two players peaking double digits. From the field, they shot 17-of-51, with only one conversion from beyond the arc.

Conversely, the Rams had 4-of-5 starters score 10 or more points, with J.D. Paige tallying 10 off the bench as well.

Though they only forced eight turnovers, the Rams defense was consistently able to limit open looks for the Broncos, forcing a reliance on 3-pointers. When their shots failed to fall, the Broncos’ rhythm was lost.

With a bounty of teams in the conference buoyed by a single player, the Rams strategy has begun to pay off, leading the team to multiple wins and enhancing their prospects for future contests.

The bye is paying off big

From Feb. 6-12, the Rams lost three games in a row, all by multiple possessions, with the biggest gaff coming in Laramie to a downtrodden Cowboys team.

Following the final contest of the three, the Rams bye week came about, a break that is beginning to pay off.

Since the losing spree and subsequent bye week, Medved’s squad has won three games in a row, with all three coming by double digits, two by 21 or more. Though their wins over Wyoming and San Jose State were merely victories over the two worst Mountain West teams, their latest win on the road was different.

Several players preached the break’s benefits, including the ability to rest up with multiple off days and reset their bodies and minds alike.

With the opportunity to move ahead of the Broncos, the Rams looked revived, encompassing the same efforts that have carried them following their break. On both offense and defense, the Rams flashed energy, with the discipline to match.

In search of consistency for the first half of the year, Medved and his team have begun to find their way.

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