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Men’s basketball picks up first win against DU

They are young, and they are hungry. The new-look Rams stepped onto the engraved hardwood horns on the floor of Moby Arena for the season opener. The stadium was rocking, and everyone in the green seats was ready for some Rams basketball.

Isaiah Stevens, Adam Thistlewood, Kendle Moore, Kris Martin and Nico Carvacho were the starting five, and they set the tone from the beginning. Stevens got it going with an early three, marking the first bucket of his Rams career.

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The University of Denver was matching the Rams’ every move at the beginning of the game. With four minutes off the game clock, the score was 8-7. Then, Hyron Edwards jumped into a passing lane near half-court, stole the ball and finished at the rim while getting fouled. He converted the free throw, helping the Rams on their 9-0 run.

CSU moved the ball extremely well. It seemed like every player on the court touched the ball before a shot went up. The Rams notched six assists in the first half, and Edwards was the maestro behind them. He had two flashy assists to set up Martin and Carvacho for easy layups.

Solid ball movement is a crucial aspect of the game for the Rams.

“I like an offense where you know the ball is moving,” Head Coach Niko Medved said. “Great ball movement and spacing and sharing leads to open shots for everybody. I think what really good offensive teams do is they help each other get shots.”

CSU shot 10-28 from the floor and 4-14 from behind the arc in the first half. The Rams out-rebounded the Pioneers 18-13 (13-12 defensive rebounds and 5-1 on offensive rebounds). Ball security was an issue for the Rams, who turned the ball over seven times in the first half.

Martin led the Rams in scoring when the first half came to a close. He scored 11 points on 4-7 shooting and 1-3 from behind the arc. He was a major factor in the Rams’ 34-26 lead going into halftime.

“I think I definitely took a step forward tonight,” Martin said. The commitment I made to myself and to my teammates just being there every single night … on (the) offensive and defensive end. At the end of the day, I think I did enough for us to get the win tonight.”

Martin finished the contest with 18 points, five rebounds and two assists. He shot 7-13 from the field and 1-6 from behind the 3-point line.

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Coming out of the break, the Rams started off a little slow. The Pioneers were able to cut the lead to 41-35 in the first four minutes. However, CSU turned up the gears and went on a 10-2 run to increase the lead to 51-37 at the 12:48 mark, capped off by a Moore steal and layup with no one around.

player yells
Adam Thistlewood (31) yells plays to his teammates. (Luke Bourland | The Collegian)

Carvacho secured his double-double late into the second half. With an and-one with four minutes left and a defensive board nearly a minute later, Carvacho secured his double-double. It was meant to be; it was the night Carvacho was awarded before tip-off for scoring 1000 points in his CSU career.

Thistlewood proved he can do more than just shoot the ball. He finished the game with 15 points and nine rebounds. Thistlewood scored most of his points from the charity stripe, going 9-10 on free-throws.

“Last year, I just took notes on Nico (Carvacho) and what he did,” Thistlewood said. “I’m trying to fill a role because we definitely had a lack of rebounding last year. … In the offseason, just hitting the weight and mentality of get the board, get the board, get the board. Plus when Kawhi Leonard said, “board man gets paid,” I really wanted to say that.”

The Rams were able to grab their first victory of the season, even though they did not shoot particularly well. They shot 30.4% from three and had a team field goal percentage of 46%.

“Hey, the biggest thing is, we found a way to win here today,” Medved said. “We knew it would be a competitive game. DU would come in and play hard. I thought our guys earned victory. It wasn’t pretty, which there’s the good, the bad, the ugly. But we found a way to do that and come out with a win.”

Tyler Meguire can be reached at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @TMeguire

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