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The Rocky Mountain Collegian

Rams basketball wins season opener on last shot of game


Collegian | Avery Coates

Isaiah Rivera (23), guard, dodges a player from Gardner-Webb University as he prepares to make the game winning shot Nov. 7. At the buzzer, Rivera scored two points for CSU making the score 65-63.

Braidon Nourse, Sports Editor

Isaiah Rivera pulled off every basketball player’s dream Monday night against Gardner-Webb University. Tied 63-63 with just over seven seconds to go, he motioned left, dribbled right and put up a mid-range shot.

Ball game.


“It actually was drawn up for (Rivera),” Colorado State men’s basketball head coach Niko Medved said. “It’s a play we work on a little bit; he did a great job.”

The win took some cobwebs being brushed off from the first half, in which the Rams were outscored by 11 points. But a physical, more inspired second half of basketball saw the Rams come back and win with a final score of 65-63.

Medved said the plan early on was to limit the Bulldogs’ opportunities in the paint to a minimum. But the physicality of Gardner-Webb hindered the Rams’ efforts, and they scored nine easy layups in the first half alone. The Rams couldn’t seem to get anything going on the offensive end either due to the Bulldogs’ defensive strategies.

“They come out and open up in a 2-3 zone, and I thought their changing defenses early really kind of threw us out of rhythm,” Medved said.

The script was flipped in the second half, as the Rams were able to get much more physical on both sides of the ball. Down 11 points to start the second half, something had to give.

Then came the 3-pointers.

Senior guard John Tonje got into his rhythm, hitting two 3-pointers to cut the deficit to two points. Not long after, senior guard Joe Palmer, as he often does, provided the spark that gave the Rams their first lead and ultimately got the Rams up by 11. 

By tossing a wild bank shot 3-point attempt and subsequently making a tough second-chance layup with a foul, Palmer brought the madness back to Moby Arena.

But the Bulldogs had no quit in them. Down 61-50 with more than three minutes left in the game, Gardner-Webb slowly chipped away at the lead until a controversial foul was called on Jalen Lake on a 3-point attempt that would have tied the game at 63. The shot missed, but Julien Soumaoro calmly hit all three free throws to tie the game.


Then the heroics of Rivera sent Moby into a frenzy.

Rivera finished the game with 11 points, seven rebounds and two assists to help seal the win for the Rams. Tonje finished with a game-high 16 points and four rebounds of his own.

The 1-0 Rams will face Southeastern Louisiana University at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 11 in Moby Arena.

Reach Braidon Nourse at or on Twitter @BraidonNourse.

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Braidon Nourse, Sports Editor

Braidon Nourse is the fall 2022 sports editor for The Collegian. He started working for The Collegian in November 2021 as a sports reporter but has taken...

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