Rams bounce back from Duke blowout with win over Omaha

Bailey Bassett

The Colorado State Rams men’s basketball team suffered a blowout loss to one of the nation’s best when they faced No. 2 Duke University last week. On Wednesday, they returned home to Moby Arena to face the University of Nebraska Omaha. The key to this game for CSU was having the right mentality to bounce back against the Mavericks. The Rams did just that, winning 80-65, in a game which they dominated in the second half.

CSU got off to a rough start. A 3-10 deficit to begin the game was highlighted by missed layups and turnovers on drives to the rim. Nico Carvacho missed a few hook shots and the Rams’ touch around the rim wasn’t there. The guards all had bad turnovers to begin the game.

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“Early in the game, I thought we had a lot of looks, and we missed a ton of easy shots at the rim,” Coach Niko Medved said. “We just had to stay with it.”

Player Dribbles
Kris Martin (1) dribbles the ball down the court against the University of Denver Nov. 5. (Luke Bourland | The Collegian)

Early jitters after facing Duke can potentially be to blame, but the Rams picked up their confidence and aggression after their bad start. The Rams comeback was sparked by a series of 3-pointers. Adam Thistlewood, Isaiah Stevens and Kendle Moore all connected from deep early.

The Rams overtook the lead by halftime and were up by a slim margin with the score being 35-33. Thistlewood had four 3-pointers in the half, and Moore had another two to boot.

The 3-pointers were what kept CSU in the game. CSU’s big man Carvacho struggled in the first half. Carvacho shot 2-8 from the field in the first half, and his touch just wasn’t there. Carvacho had numerous hook shots that clanked off the back iron, and he wasn’t using his strength and length as effectively as he usually does.

However, Carvacho did notch eight early rebounds, something he does better than anyone. Finishing strong at the rim rather than floating the ball up from 4-6 feet away is something Carvacho can work on to improve his already exceptional skill set.

Carvacho looked like a new man, and the player we are used to seeing, in the second half. He grabbed an impressive offensive rebound in traffic and scored seven of the team’s first nine points in a 15-2 run to start the second half. His bad start ended up becoming a dominant performance. Carvacho finished with 21 points and 19 rebounds. One more rebound would have secured the impressive 20-20 line for Carvacho, who struggled to score early, but finished with an efficient 50% field goal line.

Thistlewood finished with a career-high 19 points, including five 3-pointers. He was also second on the team with seven rebounds. Rebounding is something Thistlewood worked on during the offseason, and he had nine rebounds earlier in the year against the University of Denver. Keeping up this rebounding production will be huge for a team that needs someone besides Carvacho to feast on the boards.

“I had two charges,” Thistlewood jokingly said when asked about his great rebounding and shooting night. “I was just having fun out there and playing my game, and the shots were falling, and the ball was coming to me on the boards.”

One of the keys to this game was David Roddy’s energy off the bench. The freshman played strong and aggressive and had a couple of tough finishes.

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He also used his big body on the defensive side to contest the opposition in the paint. The forward only finished with four points and four rebounds, which all came early in the game, but his energy lifted the team’s spirits and allowed for their comeback to start.

A 13-3 Omaha run midway through the second half made it a game again but ended up only being a small blemish on a great CSU win. The Rams didn’t take their foot off the pedal and cruised to a 80-65 victory. The second-half offense was absolutely explosive.

Guard Stevens has impressed so far this year. He was this year’s surprise starter as a freshman who isn’t very tall at just 6 feet, and he has the mold of a player that doesn’t usually play early in the year for most Division 1 collegiate programs.

But Stevens has played hard through the Rams’ first three games. He had 11 points and tied Carvacho with a team-leading five assists in the win. His play was highlighted by a behind-the-head leaping out of bounds save pass to Kris Martin for an easy layup. Stevens is extremely versatile on the offensive end and will be a fun player to watch for years to come.

The Rams head to Los Angeles to face Loyola Marymount on Nov. 16. The Rams hope to start hot after their strong finish against Omaha.

Bailey Bassett can be at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @baileybassett_.