Rams basketball brushes dust off, cruises past Mississippi Valley

Colorado+State+University+guard+Tavi+Jackson+%282%29+brings+the+ball+up+the+court+at+the+game+against+Mississippi+Valley+State+University+Nov.+26%2C+2022.

Collegian | Serena Bettis

Colorado State University guard Tavi Jackson (2) brings the ball up the court at the game against Mississippi Valley State University Nov. 26, 2022.

Ruby Kayser

Braidon Nourse, Sports Editor

As Rams men’s basketball head coach Niko Medved would tell you, it’s best to “love the paint, like the three,” and that’s certainly what they did against Mississippi Valley State University Saturday.

Following the Rams’ recent trip to Charleston, South Carolina, for the Shriners Children’s Charleston Classic tournament, something needed to change after only shooting 21.7% from three through their final two games of the tournament. Shooting 37% from three against the Delta Devils certainly helped en route to a 88-45 victory.

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Colorado State University senior John Tonje (1) dunks the ball during the Rams’ game against Mississippi Valley State University at Moby Arena Nov. 26, 2022. The Rams won 88-45. (Collegian | Serena Bettis)

“I think your best threes come when the ball touches the paint first and playing inside out, and not just settling,” Medved said. 

“I think (what I like the most) is the chemistry. I think everyone loves each other. We all come in here and try to get better.” –John Tonje, CSU men’s basketball guard

The Rams were solid from three, but their play echoed Medved’s policy of loving the paint.

Consistently driving and establishing a presence in the paint gave the Rams plenty of opportunity to score at all three levels, but especially often at the free throw line. Drawing 29 fouls over the course of the game, CSU shot 38 free throws and made 28 of them.

Three Rams went perfect from the line, but none were more effective than John Tonje, who knocked home all six of his attempts. Tonje notched 25 points in the game, the most in the game and the most any Ram has scored so far this season.

“I think (what I like the most) is the chemistry,” Tonje said. “I think everyone loves each other. We all come in here and try to get better.”

The other scoring spark for the Rams came from freshman guard Taviontae Jackson, who got his first start of his career against the Delta Devils. Tallying 16 points in the game, Jackson dropped his season-high in points on an efficient 4-6 from the field and 7-8 from the free throw line.

“I feel great,” Jackson said. “I’m not going to lie, when I first started, I was a little nervous, … but as the game kept going on and on, I started to get more comfortable.”

Jackson is continuing a great start to his collegiate career, shooting 63.6% from the field in his first seven games for an average of 9.4 points per game. 

“I think obviously he’s young and has a lot of talent, and he’s gotten a lot thrown at him here in a short period of time,” Medved said. “He’s a guy we talk about ‘Man, he can make a lot of plays…’ (and) he just keeps getting better and better. I think the fans can see him and he’s a guy that can do a lot of things that affect winning. He’s only going to get better, and so we just decided to make that change in the lineup. Not anything particular, just kind of a hunch.”

The Rams will look to build up another winning streak and remain perfect at home Nov. 30 against Loyola Marymount University.

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Reach Braidon Nourse at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @BraidonNourse.