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Rams take down Bulldogs, get first tournament win in four years

David Roddy (21) tries to make a contested lay-up in the quarterfinal matchup between Colorado State University and California State University, Fresno on March 11. Colorado State beat Fresno State 72-62. (Devin Cornelius | Collegian)

LAS VEGAS — For the first time in four years, the Colorado State University men’s basketball team is advancing in the conference tournament. Niko Medved captured his 50th win as the Rams’ head coach after beating California State University, Fresno 72-62, in the quarterfinal round of the Air Force Reserve Mountain West Men’s Basketball Championship tournament.

It’s win or go home time now — it’s March basketball.” –Isaiah Stevens, men’s basketball player

Despite only trailing once very early in the game, this one left Ram fans sweating until the final buzzer. Fresno State made it a one-point game with just under seven minutes to go in the contest, but the Rams caught a break when Deon Stroud, one of the Bulldogs’ best offensive threats, fouled out of the game with 3:04 left on the clock. 

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Despite the late-game theatrics, the Rams weathered the upset scare and closed out the game with a bounce-back half by David Roddy helping to lead the way.  

Roddy, who was announced as a first-team all-conference player last week, had only five points at halftime. The forward would finish the game with 15 points and seven rebounds. Late game composure is very indicative of a player’s maturity and Roddy going six-for-eight from the free-throw line in the second half is a testament to just how reliable he has become when the game is on the line.

A key to the Rams’ victory was being able to limit the role of one of Fresno State’s star players, Orlando Robinson. The forward leads the Bulldogs in points, rebounds and blocks. In his previous game against the University of New Mexico, Robinson played well below his potential. A return to dominant gameplay was to be expected, but rather than wait for Robinson to explode – the Rams took the battle to him. 

Kendle Moore started the game driving right towards Robinson, finishing a layup over the towering rim protector. Isaiah Stevens immediately followed suit dropping a mid-range jumper right overtop of Fresno’s centerpiece.

The plan was aggressive, to say the least, but basketball in March often brings out the best in competition and Stevens certainly agrees.

“One thing we talk about is, play to play great, and go out there, and put your best foot forward,” Stevens said in a post-game interview. “It’s win or go home time now — it’s March basketball.”

Sometimes great play isn’t rewarded with a flashy stat sheet, especially defensively. But in a league where every possession counts, you need guys that will take the physical battle to the limit and redshirt freshman James Moors certainly embodied that sentiment tonight, and his coach certainly took notice. 

“He’s a competitor, he plays physical — I thought he really accepted the challenge on Orlando Robinson,” Medved said. “I thought James was great.”

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Robinson was a good test to see how the Rams would play against some top-notch inside presence, but taking on Utah State University’s Neemias Queta, the premier center in the conference, in the tournament semifinals is a whole different ballgame. Queta is perhaps the player that requires the most pregame planning in all in the Mountain West and it will be interesting to see how CSU will try to shut him down.

Ram fans will have to battle some late-night drowsiness, as the game is slated for a 10 p.m. MST tipoff.

Bailey Bassett and Scott Nies can be reached at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @baileybassett_ and @scott_nies98.

 

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