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Rams start, finish strong in victory over UMKC

Colorado+State+University+number+12%2C+Patrick+Cartier%2C+shoots+a+3-pointer+at+the+Mens+basketball+season+opener+against+Louisiana+Tech%2C+CSU+won+81-73.
Collegian | Lauren Mascardo
Colorado State University number 12, Patrick Cartier, shoots a 3-pointer at the Men’s basketball season opener against Louisiana Tech, CSU won 81-73.

Not every story needs to be told with a beginning, middle and end.

For Colorado State men’s basketball, they’ll probably omit the middle of their 84-61 win over UMKC when telling the story.

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While the Rams didn’t trail for a single second Friday night, at points it even felt like they were on the verge of giving the game up.

Typically a 13-0 run to start off the game and a 23-point victory has the feel of a dominant game, but allowing the Roos to get back into the game after such a dominant start, makes the win feel only slightly-less compelling.

“Not the prettiest game necessarily,” coach Niko Medved said. “And look at the stat sheet like ‘wow you won by 23.’ So I’m pleased with that. I give (UMKC) credit, we jumped on them early right out of the gate, getting stops, making shots and then I thought they dug in.”

After allowing the Roos to get back within five early in the second half, it was Isaiah Stevens who found Nique Clifford on a breakaway dunk that vaulted the momentum back into the Rams favor.

From that point forward, it was the Clifford show.

“I trust our guys a lot,” Medved said. “Basketball can be a game of runs, you hate to let them claw all the way back into it after the start. … But obviously that was a big momentum play and to see our guys and extend the lead after that was great.”

Cliffords night in which he scored 13 points was certainly a tale of two halves. Ending the first 20 minutes with zero points on no shots, all of his damage came after the break, where he shot 5-of-5 from the field.

The depth was a big-time selling point for this team in the offseason. Something that the Rams struggled with a season ago.

On a night where Stevens was uncharacteristically quiet posting only eight points — the least amount of points he’s scored since Mar. 17, 2022 — it was that depth that ushered the Rams to victory.

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“We pride ourselves on — it’s one of coach Medved’s philosophies is to be able to move the ball and share it,” Patrick Cartier said. “Whether that’s in transition, or in the half court. And obviously (Stevens) is kind of the lead on that with his passing ability and it’s pretty infectious I would say — and he honestly does not care how much he scores he just cares that we win.”

Cartier was a key driver in the Rams victory. He was one of the four starters who scored in double-digits.

Also scoring in double-digits was Josiah Strong. Strong has battled through a multitude of injuries throughout his collegiate career. Not only has he battled through the physical side of the injury, but staying mentally tough is also a big challenge.

He started off the season struggling from beyond-the-arc, but finally four games in, seeing that first one fall can be a major boost towards getting into a flow.

“It felt great man,” Strong said. “First and foremost I’ve got to give glory to god for even allowing me to play today. It’s been a long journey to say the least and seeing the first one go in — my teammates, (Cartier) in particular even talked to me before the game. They’ve been talking to me all week, just encouraging me to just stick with it, know who I am (and) have confidence in myself.”

While it feels like defense has been a strong suit for the Rams in their 4-0 start — holding their second opponent in a row under 30% from beyond-the-arc. — it’s something that will be a focus for them as they get deeper into the season.

The Rams are athletic and have a lot of guys that can guard multiple positions at a high level and it’s that ability that is going to be a key for them down the stretch.

“I think it’s crucial,” Strong said. “Especially for us if we want to make a run — the Mountain West is a tremendous league, it’s been a good league the past couple years. And having eight, nine, 10 guys that can all interchange and play different position, guard different positions is big time.”

Colorado State (4-0) now heads on the road for the Hall of Fame Classic. They play their first game against Boston College (3-0) at 11:30 a.m. Nov 22 in Kansas City, Missouri.

Reach Damon Cook at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @dwcook2001.

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About the Contributor
Damon Cook
Damon Cook, Sports Editor
Damon Cook is the 2023-24 sports editor for the The Collegian and has been at the paper since August 2022. He started doing coverage on volleyball and club sports before moving onto the women's basketball beat. He is in his third year and is completing his degree with a major in journalism and media communication and a minor in sports management. As The Collegian's sports editor, Cook reports on CSU sports and helps manage the sports desk and content throughout the week. After having a year to learn and improve, Cook will now get to be part of a new age under the sports desk. The desk moved on from all but one other person and will now enter into a new era. Damon started school as a construction management major looking to go in a completely different direction than journalism. After taking the year off during the COVID-19 pandemic, he quickly realized that construction wasn't for him. With sports and writing as passions, he finally decided to chase his dreams, with The Collegian helping him achieve that. He is most excited to bring the best and most in-depth sports coverage that The Collegian can provide.

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