CSU ends losing streak, out-hustles Air Force 69-53


Collegian | Karsyn Lane

Colorado State University guards Baylor Hebb (5) and Isaiah Stevens (4) defend United States Air Force Academy guard Jake Heidbreder (3) Feb. 7. The Rams won 69-53.

Leah Cackowski

Braidon Nourse, Sports Editor

Sometimes, if you want to win, you have to put in the extra effort.

That’s what it took for the Colorado State University men’s basketball team to take down the United States Air Force Academy. The combination of extra effort and disciplined play led the Rams to a 69-53 victory over the Falcons.


From the opening tip, senior guard John Tonje made it clear what tone the Rams would play with for the duration of the game. When his number was called to take the ball inside, he did it with high intensity and toughness. Tonje would finish the game with 21 points on 9-14 from the field.

For every bit of physicality Tonje brought to the floor, senior guard Isaiah Stevens brought it in finesse. As he often does, Stevens effortlessly got to his spots in the midrange, and tonight he seldom hit the rim on those shots if he was open. Stevens must have been feeling it, hitting 9-13 for 20 points.

The Rams were without Jalen Lake and Taviontae Jackson for the second straight game. But a couple more days of practice helped them settle in and adjust to not having as many players available.

“I thought we rebounded well tonight — we did not do that up at our place,” head coach Niko Medved said. “Listen, you’re playing as short a bench as we got, everybody’s gonna have to contribute if you’re gonna win, especially on the road.”

For the most part, CSU’s offense was just clicking. Ball movement and hard drives to the basket were the catalysts to getting good shots that ended up at the bottom of the net. However, the real difference was the way the Rams continuously disrupted the Falcons’ offensive rhythm. 

The last time the two teams played this season, the Rams couldn’t do much of anything to stop the Falcons from getting good shots, particularly in the overtime period of that game, where they outscored the Rams 20-9.

“Great performance, our defense was phenomenal,” Medved said. “We really settled in. We made it difficult on them. And then our two leaders, you know, John and Isaiah, just absolutely stepped up when we needed to have them, and they kind of willed us to victory.”

The Rams compiled two blocks and five steals to Air Force’s one block and three steals. Additionally, the Rams took a total of three charges. They also out-rebounded Air Force 31-23, all the while holding the Falcons’ best scorers Jake Heidbreder and Rytis Petraitis to 13 and 0, respectively.

“That’s huge,” Tonje said. “I know coach thinks (defense is) his favorite part of the game, not the 3-pointers or the dunks or anything. It’s the charges, so obviously that gives us a lot of energy.”


The Rams improved to 3-9 in conference play and 11-15 overall, and with tonight’s win, they moved up to No. 10 in the Mountain West Conference standings above the University of Wyoming. For the Rams to string some more wins, especially in their next game against Boise State University, extra grit and effort definitely won’t hurt.

“Hopefully, it just continues to build confidence and momentum,” Medved said. “I just thought we had a cleaner attack here. We just played with a lot more poise, a lot more aggression. We weren’t just slopping up bad shots. But we won a lot of the hustle plays tonight, and that ultimately, I thought, was the difference.”

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