Wyoming spoils Stevens’ record-breaking day in final seconds

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Collegian | Gregory James

Guard Isaiah Stevens (4) goes to shoot a layup against University of Wyoming guard Hunter Maldonado (24) Jan 21. The Rams lost 58-57 with Stevens scoring 15 points and breaking the school career record for assists.

Mike Walsh and Madeline Davis

Braidon Nourse, Sports Editor

Prior to Colorado State University’s (10-11 overall, 2-6 Mountain West Conference) matchup against rival University of Wyoming (6-13 overall, 1-6 Mountain West Conference), senior guard Isaiah Stevens only needed two assists to break CSU’s all-time career assist record.

The record of 530 assists was previously held by Ryan Yoder, who played from 1990-94, and stood for nearly 30 years.

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Stevens only needed five minutes at the Arena-Auditorium to find longtime teammate John Tonje for a three to record his 531st career assist to tie the score up at six a piece. However, the rest of the 35-21 first half would be enough for Wyoming, as the Cowboys dominated on all fronts in the frame on the way to a holding on for a 58-57 victory over the Rams. 

“I thought the game was lost in the first half,” said Niko Medved, Rams head coach. “I didn’t think we were very strong with the ball. … I don’t know why or what was going on there, but we missed a lot of layups, uncharacteristic turnovers, and I thought in the first half they owned the paint.”

The Rams had no answer for the Cowboys’ ball movement on offense, often causing the defense to scramble and leave at least one Cowboy open. Often on the receiving end of a wide open pass was Wyoming’s leading scorer Noah Reynolds, who finished the game with 17 points on 6-17 shooting. 

Though Reynolds was able to lead all scorers, the bright spot on CSU’s defense was their handling of Hunter Maldonado, who was held to seven points.

“It’s hard to think of too many bright spots after the game today,” Medved said. “But yeah, that was a bright spot, (Maldonado is) a terrific player, a veteran in this league, and he’s a hard guy to defend.”

On the offensive end, the Rams were uncharacteristically careless with the ball. Normally, the Rams average nearly two assists per turnover, but that script was essentially flipped against Wyoming, giving up 18 turnovers on 12 assists.

It was a tale of two halves for the Rams, who fell down to a 16 point deficit early on in the second half. Then a 15 point run brought the Rams right back into the game and gave them their first lead since it was 1-0. 

“It was just attention to detail,” Stevens said. “We didn’t turn the ball over nearly as much, we finished in the paint a lot more. We were loaded in our gaps defensively.”

Down the stretch, the two teams traded buckets until the game was tied at 57 with just over 22 seconds left to play, a situation the Rams are familiar with as of late.

With the shot clock off, Reynolds drove to the left and drew a foul on Rams’ Jalen Lake. He hit the first free throw and missed the second with only two seconds left on the clock, but the Rams were unable to go the length of the floor in such a short time.

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“Congratulations to Isaiah Stevens,” Medved said. “It’s hard because he’d give away all these records to win all these games. But to have a young man become the all-time assist leader at a school is pretty special, and that’s just a testament to who he is and what he’s done over the course of his career. I’m really, really proud of him.”

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