Pound-the-paint approach not enough against Air Force in overtime

Colorado+State+University+guard+Isaiah+Stevens+%284%29+sets+up+a+play+against+California+State+University%2C+Fresno+at+Moby+Arena+Jan.+7%2C+2023.+The+Rams+won+79-57+to+get+their+first+Mountain+West+Conference+win+of+the+season.

Collegian | Serena Bettis

Colorado State University guard Isaiah Stevens (4) sets up a play against California State University, Fresno at Moby Arena Jan. 7, 2023. The Rams won 79-57 to get their first Mountain West Conference win of the season.

Braidon Nourse, Sports Editor

The Colorado State University (9-9, 1-4 Mountain West) men’s basketball team is home to multiple capable three-point shooters. The team’s 8.5 makes on 25 three-point attempts per game has been reflective of their stout shooting ability and is usually a bright spot on an offense that has nine wins on the season.

But that just wasn’t the case in the 85-74 loss in overtime against the United States Air Force Academy (10-7, 1-3 Mountain West) tonight. 

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“This has kind of been a recurring movie, the inconsistency of our ball club.” -Niko Medved, head coach 

The 12 attempts were a season low for the Rams, who went with a classic approach to the game against the Falcons.

After the Rams’ previous game against California State University, Fresno, head coach Niko Medved called graduate student Patrick Cartier an “old-school guy” who knows how to score in the paint. This style of play suited him and the Rams perfectly for this matchup.

The 6-foot 8-inch forward tied his season high of 23 points in the overtime loss against Air Force, most of them off clever footwork leading to crafty finishes. The Falcons’ lack of size certainly helped, too.

“They run a little matchup zone, and they do a lot of switching with guards and bigs, so we were able to take advantage of that,” Cartier said. “I got some pretty easy looks, but we just couldn’t pull 45 minutes together.”

The game was close throughout, with the largest lead in regulation being Air Force’s six-point lead around the halfway mark of the first half. The main factor in the Falcons keeping it close was their dominance on the offensive boards, as they snagged 12 offensive rebounds to CSU’s six.

“I think it just came down to our lack of toughness, and that obviously showed with offensive rebounding against an undersized team, you know, that can’t happen,” Cartier said. “It’s something that we’ve struggled with and talked about. … We’ve got to stop talking about it and do it.”

Air Force was also getting wide open layups and dunks due to their sneaky screen-setters occasionally slipping screens and cutting to the basket. This eventually led to the game-tying basket by the Falcons’ Jake Heidbreder. With 2.1 seconds to go, the Rams had a chance to win it on a baseline inbound play, but senior guard Isaiah Stevens couldn’t come up with the basket.

In overtime, the Falcons proved too much for the Rams, hitting all five of their field goal attempts and eight of their nine free throws.

“A play that stood out to me … they miss a shot, and I think (number) 42 for them just took the ball right out of our hands and layed it in,” Medved said. “That’s not an execution thing, that’s just somebody coming in here and saying that they’re just more desperate to win the game than we are. I wish I had an answer for that, but I don’t.”

“This has kind of been a recurring movie, the inconsistency of our ball club,” Medved said. 

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The Rams will travel to Las Vegas to take on the University of Nevada, Las Vegas Jan. 14 before coming back to Fort Collins to match up against San Diego State University Jan. 18.

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