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Men’s basketball edges out Wyoming in two crucial wins

Photo illustration show an image of both male and female basketball players with the text "In the Paint, Collegian Basketball Coverage"
(Graphic Illustration by Colin Crawford | The Collegian)

The Border War never fails to excite. The two-game series in Laramie, Wyoming, was no different this week for Colorado State men’s basketball.

With the men’s and women’s basketball teams both sweeping Wyoming, in addition to the Border War football victory, CSU gets the first 5-0 school sweep over Wyoming since 1999-2000.”

CSU improved in their run to the big dance, but it was no easy task taking two games away from their greatest rival on the road. In dramatic fashion, CSU was able to come away with two wins against the Pokes. 

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The first game of the series was a thriller right down to the buzzer. University of Wyoming’s star freshman Marcus Williams hit a game-tying 3-pointer near the end of the game but this gave CSU one more chance. Kendle Moore took it himself and cruised down the court to hit the game-winning layup.

Isaiah Stevens, usually tasked with taking end-of-game and crucial shots, fouled out with just under four minutes left in the game. This gave Moore a great opportunity, and he capitalized, giving CSU the 74-72 win.

A recurring bright spot for the Rams is John Tonje, who had a great series off the bench. He was extremely consistent with 14 points in the first game of the series and followed it up with 10 points in CSU’s second win. Tonje is hitting three’s, scoring tough buckets inside and is looking like a great defensive piece. 

Tonje comes off the bench and is clearly an important piece to this team but his recent successes beg the question of if he is one of the very best players on this team? Tonje’s progress can be seen as his midrange baseline shooting is appearing frequently in his offensive game, showing he is working and expanding on his game.

Tonje isn’t the only one who seems to have added to their arsenal. David Roddy has been hitting fadeaways with great touch in the last few games, a shot that is basically unguardable thanks to Roddy’s size and ability to create space. Adam Thistlewood is consistently using his prowess as a three-shooter to get the defense to bite on pump fakes before taking one dribble pull-ups inside the arc. 

Roddy finished with a team-high 15 points and topped it off with 11 rebounds in the second game to secure his seventh double-double of the season. 

The Rams dominated the first half in game two. Their defense was rotating quickly and forcing the Cowboys into a tough shot on nearly every possession. Wyoming didn’t get to double-digit scoring until the 8:28 mark in the first half. The first half dominance was illustrated by a 14-0 CSU run resulting in a 18 point lead for the Rams with just under eight minutes to go in the half. Still, Wyoming made a little run to end the half so it seemed inevitable that in a rivalry game the Pokes would make it a contest.

Kendle Moore, who had the game-winner in the first game, once again displayed his skills in transition. He is a pesky defender that forces a lot of turnovers and turns those into transition opportunities. Although he is smaller than a lot of his counterparts, his speed and crafty finishing ability allow him to score seemingly every time in those one-on-one transition scenarios. Moore would finish with nine points but was a big defensive reason as to why Wyoming star Marcus Williams had a down game. Wyoming’s leading scorer for the season was held to only eight points on 4-12 shooting. 

Moore once again saved the game late in this one. He poked the ball out of Wyoming’s hands on CSU’s most crucial defensive possession, forcing Wyoming to start the foul game and inevitably give the Rams the win. 

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The win didn’t come easy, as rivalry matchups never do. Even with the stellar first half, CSU had to grind for the win in half number two. Hanging on by a thread late in the game due to made free throws and some defensive hustle, the Rams finished the game with a 68-59 win.

The sweep puts CSU at 14-4 overall and 11-3 in conference play. CSU currently sits at second in the conference standings but they are tied for the lead in wins. 

With the men’s and women’s basketball teams both sweeping Wyoming, in addition to the Border War football victory, CSU gets the first 5-0 school sweep over Wyoming since the 1999-2000 season.

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

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