Rams fall in opening round, set their eyes to the future under Medved

Luke Zahlmann

Though their first-round exit mimicked their results from last year’s tournament, Colorado State felt a sense of sorrow, rather than relief.

After the Larry Eustachy scandal that rocked the program last year, with allegations of both verbal and physical abuse forcing him to depart, the team was in shambles. Assistant Coach Jase Herl did what he could, but was given subpar efforts for the year’s final stretch, with a loss to Utah State in their opening Mountain West Tournament game a mere formality.

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With a 66-57 loss to Boise State this year, the team’s reactions were a direct juxtaposition.

“Last year we went through a little different situation,” Nico Carvacho said. “We came out this year, we fought every single game… We came in here confident knowing that we were going to have to battle for every single thing and we left it (all) out there.” 

In multiple halves last season, the team appeared to take their early results as final results, their second-half efforts palling in comparison.

Whether it was bouncing back from a slow start, or fighting a sizeable halftime deficit, the team was ill-equipped to quit this year. Leading the bounce-back charge was Hyron Edwards. After an ankle injury in the team’s second matchup with BSU sidelined the guard for most of the final three games, he returned, playing through the pain in 30 minutes.

He finished the game with eight points and four assists. A lingering ailment notwithstanding, Edwards gave the Rams multiple bursts of energy including a breakaway layup and conversion from the line:

https://twitter.com/CSUMBasketball/status/1105897757187796993

Once the team was injected with a burst, J.D. Paige made a mark, buoying the scoring load, accompanied by his usual calm demeanor. His 25-point mark on 9-of-17 from the field led the game, with his 39 minutes also the apex for any Ram.

But (Carvacho and Paige) have grown like crazy and I’m really proud of them,” Medved said. “We’re in a much better position now as a program than we were because of these two.” 

With the Rams’ heroes taking charge, so too did their kryptonite: Broncos’ forward Zach Haney and guard Derrick Alston.

“They were the most physical team from start to finish,” Paige said. “They battled hard, but our guys didn’t stop battling. But I would just say that they were the more physical team.”

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Hyron Edwards attempts to score during the first round of the Mountain West Conference Tournament against Boise State on March 13 in Las Vegas, NV. (Tony Villalobos May | Collegian)

The big man racked up 16 points to head the Broncos charge in the paint. The two teams finished with a 28 total apiece under the basket, with several screens and movement rendering Nico Carvacho’s interior defense mute.

The barrage was headed by Haney but several other Broncos contributed, with the team’s five made 3-pointers giving way to their 64-percent tally from inside the arc and 19-of-24 mark from the free-throw line. 

Though their efforts didn’t show it, the Rams’ deficit was insurmountable. Adam Thistlewood and Kendle Moore both finished the game combined for three points, creating a hole in the starting lineup.

With BSU able to attend to the other three Rams with a bevy of defenders, the offense for Medved’s squad remained stagnant.

“I think often times you learn the most in the most difficult situations,” Medved said. “Adam (was in the locker room after the game) crying his eyes out. He knows he didn’t play well. Nobody cares more.” 

Paired with Thistlewood’s scoreless game, Kendle Moore scored three, with his lone bucket coming on a last-second 3-pointer as the game came to a conclusion. With a subpar game in their rearview mirror, the Rams know what they have in the young duo.

“Hey, it wasn’t their day today,” Medved said. “Give the opponent credit. But trust me, those two guys will be back… I don’t ever like to see a player hurting, but I love to see that because I love to see the passion and somebody caring so much about what we’re doing.”

The team will also return their stalwart, Carvacho, who finished the game with 12 points and five rebounds as part of his record-breaking campaign. With a First-Team All-MW selection bestowed upon him prior to the game, Medved saw a vast improvement in his center. 

I look at Nico… (and) in 20-some years of coaching, as an assistant and head coach, I think he’s improved as much as any player I’ve seen throughout the season,” Medved said. “That takes a tremendous amount of commitment and buy-in and maturity level.” 

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