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Another day, another victory: Rams overcome Pioneers with defensive effort

No.+10%2C+Nique+Clifford+dunks+on+Denver+University+at+the+mens+basketball+game+against+Denver+University%2C+CSU+won%2C+90-80.
Collegian | Lauren Mascardo
No. 10, Nique Clifford dunks on Denver University at the men’s basketball game against Denver University, CSU won, 90-80.

Defensive wins championships.

Tonight defense sealed the game for Colorado State ending Denver’s four-game win streak Wednesday night in Moby Arena 90-80.

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 Although the Pioneers don’t have a promising history against ranked opponents on the road (3-32), they came to play hard ball.

“Give a lot of credit to Denver, they came in and I thought they were really aggressive,” coach Niko Medved said. “They’re a good offensive team so none of that was a surprise for us.”

Despite the hot first half from DU’s offense, CSU was able to slow down their attack by playing more aggressively around the perimeter after halftime.

While the Rams are without two huge defensive weapons in Josiah Strong and Jalen Lake — who play exceptional perimeter defense — the Ram’s versatility was their striving point.

“Probably the thing that we did clean up at halftime was the 3-point defense,” Medved said. “I think we did a much better job at challenging 3s, they made us pay in the first-half everytime we had a hand down, then what happens is you make a couple, then you make some contested ones too.”

Once again depth was a factor in Wednesdays win, making the coaching job much easier knowing anyone can perform at any given time.

And luckily for the Rams the next man up was Tavi Jackson, who is back after missing the first part of the season.

“Honestly it felt great,” Jackson said. “It felt a little weird at the beginning but after the first bucket playing more and more I started to feel like I got my groove back.”

Part of CSU’s depth is the ability to get the ball moving in exciting ways, and with getting guys back from injury it adds a whole new level of on court presence for these rotations.

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The Rams were able to find the open man as they had 24 assists on 32 made field goals, with Nique Clifford recording his career-high in assists with seven.

“That’s the way coach Medved sets up his program for us to play unselfish basketball and it’s fun, it’s way more fun that way,” Clifford said. “Sharing the ball, and like I said earlier you never know whose night it’s gonna be because of the way we play and it’s definitely fun to be a part of that.”

Operating as a well-oiled machine this offense looks unstoppable. Ranked sixth in the nation, the sharpshooting capability and physicality in the paint have driven the Rams to yet another victory.

The stage is set for Saturday as the Rams stay at home to take on Saint Mary’s at 4:30 p.m. where they have a chance to get to 10-0. 

“That’s a good win for our team,” said Medved. “We gotta regroup and we got another big challenge here on Saturday before we go into finals.”

Reach Luke Hojnowski at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @lukehojo.

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