Rams pull out 78-71 victory over SJSU thanks to late run

Ryan Loberger

A win is a win, and during a heated race for seeding for the Mountain West Championships in March, teams will take them any way they come. Coming into Saturday’s game with San Jose State University, the Colorado State men’s basketball team expected to take care of business against the Spartans, and while the victory wasn’t glamorous, it still goes in the win column. 

“(It was a) good win,” head coach Niko Medved said. “Was it pretty? No. Sometimes that happens. … I don’t think that was from a lack of intensity.”

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The Rams escaped the Spartans thanks to a late run in the last 10 minutes of the second half to propel them to a 78-71 victory. 

The first half of play was somewhat sloppy for the Rams, and coupled with the hustle of the Spartans, CSU headed to the locker room trailing 43-40 at halftime. Highlighted by turnovers, the Rams coughed the ball up 12 times in the first, and San Jose made CSU pay, adding 20 points from those turnovers. 

“One thing I give them a lot of credit for (is) … they’re an aggressive team,” Medved said. “They’re a team that’s going to come at you. They crash the offensive glass.”

Leading the way offensively for the Spartans was Seneca Knight, who leads SJSU in scoring, rebounds and minutes per game. In their last meeting, Knight scored 21 points in an 81-70 CSU road win, but by the end of the first half in this game, the sophomore had poured in 26 points, shooting 8-12 from the field, 5-9 from the 3-point line and a perfect 5-5 from the free-throw line. 

“I thought the guys played pretty hard,” Medved said. “But you foul 3-point shooters, you turn it over, now guys start to get hot from the free-throw line and get a little bit of confidence, and now you’ve got a real problem on your hands.” 

There was no lack of hustle on either side, as each team was tenacious when trailing the other. The largest lead of the game for both teams was no greater than six points until the Rams pulled away with 9:07 remaining in the second half with the score tied 59-59.

The Rams used a 14-2 run to take control of the game and give them their largest lead of the contest at 12 points with a 73-61 score. Kendle Moore hit a three to help spark the run, and the Rams never relinquished the lead.

Adam Thistlewood led the Rams in points, scoring 16 on 4-8 shooting, mostly from the 3-point line. Nico Carvacho added a double-double with 10 points and 12 rebounds.

https://twitter.com/CSUMBasketball/status/1231347853210947584

Another slow start to the game did leave the door open for the Spartans, but the Rams were resilient and battled through their struggles the entire game. Coach Medved credits the bench for helping the team find its rhythm. Freshman Dischon Thomas led the way, coming off the bench and chipping in 13 points on 6-6 shooting, going 1-1 from the charity stripe. 

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“(I was) just being aggressive,” Thomas said. “The way they were playing me, sagging off me, and coach (Medved) tells me all the time if they back up just let it go.”

The win over SJSU puts CSU at 20-0 all-time vs. the Spartans and puts the Rams’ conference record at 10-6, currently tied with Boise State and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas for fourth place in the Mountain West Conference. 

CSU will now head to San Diego for a game with the conference-leading San Diego State Aztecs, who are currently ranked No. 4 in the nation and just lost their undefeated title at 26-1 overall, 15-1 in MW Conference play. 

Ryan Loberger can be reached at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @LobergerRyan.